Born in Darkness
On the first day of the second era, a new evil was born from the womb of darkness itself. The tales tell of an impossible time where sunlight and daytime abandoned the world and night reigned alone. The world became covered with creatures of dread and despair. They crept out from the earth’s crevices, the forests’ depths and the oceans’ abysses, and everywhere the impenetrable shadow touched, the others were never far behind. Demons infinite in malice, these shadow fiends and night stalkers would be an endless threat to all goodly folk for centuries to come. How exactly the demons came to be none can say, and their motives seemed to be as diverse as their forms. Most fiends simply sought the destruction of life, reveling in the sheer act of killing, mutilation, and the consuming of flesh. Rarely did anyone encounter a demon that did not have a desire for slaughter in its eyes. Many demons relished the despair of mortals as well, and would torment their victims by both subtly infiltrating dreams and driving their victims to madness, or by more vulgar act of torture. However, the most depraved of all demons were cunning manipulators and possessors, who oft acted through the innocent to achieve their vile ambitions. Enslaving the souls of masses, desecrating the grounds of sacred sites, and stealing the source of arcane powers are only a few of the many despicable deeds the most infamous monsters of the age committed.
As was foretold, the denizens of this godless realm had to cut their own path through the darkness. Over the centuries, despite the horrors in the shadows, civilizations rose and fell and new cultures sprung into being. The elves, separated from their gods, organized into a plethora of great houses, lead by the noblest and wisest of their kind. The many houses were ideologically divided, which led the development of two distinct societies, that of the High Elves who lived in their ancestral cities and the Wood Elves who sought a closer connection to Idrolian’s domain. The goblins too diverged into a number of different sub-races. Many goblin tribes that had dwelt underground migrated to the surface to escape the shadow fiends that came to inhabit their ancient lairs. The surface goblins grew taller and fiercer and became hobgoblins, while others grew lager still and developed thick, matted coats of wiry hair, and were called bugbears. Though not all goblins escaped the earthen depths; those left behind became twisted and evil, their minds corrupted by the dark forces and taken by malice.
The second age saw the rise of the beastmen, hybrid or anthropomorphic creatures that, for the most part, lived in relatively civilized tribes, herds, flocks, prides, etc. They resembled their animal counterparts in more than just physical appearance, but in personality as well. Predatory beastmen were territorial and adhered to a hierarchical social structure, while less hostile beastmen tended to be nomadic and communal. Their contribution to the histories of the world is limited because, unlike the more ancient or civilized races, all beastmen tended towards an isolationist way of life; they did not build vast civilizations, found revolutionary ideas or practices, or discover significant technological advancements. They are known for their ancient traditions, which have been unchanged since the earliest of days. In the Second Age, however, the beastmen thrived, their rugged way of life and independence serving them well in these dark times.
It was also during this time that the most significant race of our time Men made an appearance. Where men came from no one can say, but it was clear that men had a disconnection to this realm, as magic, the province of the spirits, was something foreign and frightening to them. Some have speculated that men were placed here for some reason by a good and divine being, infinite in power and wisdom. Others suggest that men were the servants of the nameless enemy that plagued the world, thus come from the same dark domain as they. Others offer that men were created by the spirits just as all other living things were, but men had forgotten somehow. No matter the case, at this time in history men were of little importance, as the struggle for survival against the shadow occupied their entire existence. Humanity was a fledgling race, defenseless and craven, or appearing as twisted servants to cruel demons, little else than a thralls to dark lords.
Building a God
The Dwarves, stubborn and brave, did not retreat from the darkness that invaded their kingdoms. Their stalwart defense of their great halls and furnaces against foul-touched goblins and other, even less savory menaces are the stuff of legend. However, as valiant as their efforts were, many a great dwarven kingdom was lost. Over the centuries, ancient strongholds held since before reckoning were razed or collapsed, even the sacred halls of Geomancer’s Citadel from whence Edenoston forged the dwarves and taught them his craft was overrun. After many hundreds of years into the Second Age, all but a handful of dwarf cities remained inhabited, and though they were still marvels to behold, they were nothing compared to the greater architectural masterpieces that were lost. In this time geomancy was the predominant method by which dwarves raised their strongholds, but the spellcraft of stone and earth artificers was crude and hurried, lacking the care the craftsmen of yore took.
Edenoston had committed all of his strength along with the other spirits to banish the Titan King and to keeping closed the seal between this world and the Giardur, at the cost of their material forms. It is a sacrifice that the elves had lamented but came to terms with, as they were left with the gift of magic to remind them of the spirits’ presence, but the dwarves never did accept their creator’s fate. Edenoston’s magic was in the building of things, and the dwarves did all they could to bring glory to his legacy with their grand halls and fine works, but that legacy was seeming less and less meaningful as the dwarves died and their cities went to ruin. In their most desperate hour, the dwarves sought to reunite their maker with the world, and for him to lead them against the shadows to a brighter future.
Over the ruins of Khordaldrum, the birthplace of all dwarfdom, the geomancers built a crude fortress, lacking any majesty the hall had been adorned with in its glory, but still the largest and strongest their magic had ever wrought. They called it Geomancer’s Citadel, and in this hallow hall they constructed with greater care and effort than they had anything else a clay golem to serve as a vessel for their lord creator. The golem was unadorned and featureless, but its earthen red skin was unmarred and flawless, cut and polished to a shine typically only achievable by the most skilled of dwarf masons. Wielding powers that no mortal ought to wield, the geomancers reached into the veil and tore from it the spirit of Edenoston. The golem, infused with the essence pulled from the veil, stirred with a grown, and then gave a terrible, wrathful roar and the artificers quaked with fear. It was not Edenoston that the geomancers had withdrawn or at least not Edenoston as they knew him, but rather a soul of chaos. Perhaps the geomancers had snatched the wrong essence, or perhaps Edenoston had become crazed in his exile, but whatever the case, the dwarves had brought a monster into this world. The golem’s face and limbs became twisted and deformed, and the being within exerted a chaos that drove all who gazed upon it to madness. The crazed dwarves called the creature Melekh (King in their tongue), and to this day none dare approach Geomancer’s Citadel for fear of him and his maddened servitors.
Despite the disaster at Geomancer’s Citadel, the Dwarves’ fortune did begin to turn for the better. In their darkest hour, heroes that would become legends arose, and none more so famed than Dorak the Destroyer. Such great a warrior he was that he led the last of the Dwarves to victory over the innumerable Goblin hoards, became a beloved king who restored a measure of glory to the lost cities, and slew a god. But Dorak’s tale is a story for another time.