The Era of Heroes

On the last, terrible day of the War, there remained only two of the Walking Gods.

Zithras the First-Born, the leader of the Gods of the Celestial Order, from whom flowed an endless sea of tears as he looked out upon the world.

Tuzul Shek the Last-Born, the leader of the Gods of the Eternal Will, who was haunted by the voice of every life sacrificed in her name and every life she had taken.

Both scions of Qumu, the beginning and the end of the Walking Gods had met one another a hundred times throughout the long years of the war and knew their powers were both the greatest of the Immaculata and evenly matched.  It would not be their power that ended the battle, but that of the mortals who ostensibly served them, even as they cowered in their blasted hovels and their scarred fortresses.

What they needed was time to rebuild their armies and prepare for the coming final battle.  Each unbidden by the other, they wrought their last and most terrible act of desecration in the long war filled with such monstrous deeds.  Though others had scarred the land, raising mountains or flooding nations into new seas, Zithras and Tuzul Shek reached down into the living bedrock of the planet and pulled like two children fighting over an apple.  There came a groan and a terrible shudder that every living thing in Zenáthras felt and all life almost ended there.

But the planet did not fail, the surface instead cracking as the last two Walking Gods literally dragged continents apart, clumping them around either pole and leaving between them the Galecage, the great ring ocean that wraps the circumference of the planet at its equator.  Massive fissures split the planet's flesh, belching caustic magma across tortured landscapes or into the deep seas.  It is from this single event that Zenáthras inherited its long, troubling history of earthquakes and volcanic activity, for even into the present, thousands of years later, the wounds of this great moving of earth remain.

Even as their plans came to fruition and the world threatened to come undone, there descended in rage and fury the Five Crowns, who refused to allow this final battle to extinguish with it the flickering remnants of life as well.  Qumu took up the bodies of Zithras and Tuzul Shek and the broken corpses of all the Immaculata in one hand, draining from them their divine power.  From her other hand, she released this power into the world, allowing it to saturate the whole of Zenáthras and save the world from the death that her misguided children had begun.

Weeping at all that had transpired, the Five Crowns swore an oath that never again would the divine interfere in the affairs of mortals.  What they wished to do, they must do on their own.

From the ashes of this world, life was given a second chance.

Slowly, civilizations arose and nations reformed.  This was the age of the new kingdoms, of Watria the nation of artists, of the honor-bound Kingdom of Sembarch, and of the mysterious Lluos t'm Rawajat.  For centuries, the mortal races flourished anew, for they were discovering in themselves a new power.  When Qumu had shared the strength of the Walking Gods with the world, it had raised the mortals beyond themselves and they began to learn how to control the power of numina, to craft it into magic.

Even among mortal humanoids, however, was a select group who surpassed their peers: Heroes.  They were the children and grandchildren of the rare mates taken by Walking Gods and their blood was rich with divine energy.  While their peers dabbled in magic, they were its masters and were born with such potent innate spellcraft that no mortal could rival them.  Even the most powerful monsters—titans and dragons and demons returned from their damnation—met their equal in the heroes who strode the world.

And there were many of these monsters, for not only had the war given them ample opportunity to breed, but the power that the Walking Gods had used, in many cases, had also changed the monsters in the lands where it was felt most heavily.  It was the Heroes of this era who protected their fellows and opened new lands to settlement.  Heroes such as Arma Nine-Eyes and Mendigern of Iron, like the Banner of Twelve who slew the great red wyrm Valkien Tharassus and cast its still-beating heart into an open volcano.  While Topo the Chaste was seducing nymph-queens and becoming the leading cause of death for lycanthropes, Vyde T'woia slew the Kraken-Lord Wyrcrast and Fang the Doom foiled the plots of the Carmine Emperor.

But with every generation, it was recognized that these lineages of heroes were growing weaker, their blood more diluted.  Though some staved this off by only bearing children with other heroes, it was a temporary solution at best.  In Millennium 5 Year 883, an unprecedented gathering happened.  The heroes of the northern lands and the heroes of the southern lands met at the island-fortress of Horgunne the Hammer: the Black Rock Citadel.  Here, with their finest minds and most potent numina-wielders, they outlined an ambitious plan.

While the numina of every individual mortal was a small thing, it was noted that if you combined the numina of two mortals, it would produce a power greater than simply the sum of the two.  Plans took shape, to create a vast reservoir using the power of all mortalkind; a Well of numina from which any mortal could draw, granting even the weakest of their number a power akin to that of a hero.  As the old bloodlines of the gods faded, the races of Zenáthras would remain protected for all time.

But they could not make this decision on their own and so, over the course of the next thirty years, they approached the various rulers of the world.  The Xenarch of Great Fassadum agreed with reluctance while the Child-King of Totunthorm was enthusiastic and the hero Meenoch spent seven years in the court of the Master Potentate Bamman to finally get her to agree.  One by one, until even the goblin's High Honcho S'zmoob was swayed, the heroes persevered.

When the last signature was placed upon the Great Scroll and the final seal marked indelibly in its wax, the so-called Black Rock Council began.  If the signing of the scroll was a massive undertaking, then the creation of the Well was unlike anything the mortal races had ever attempted.  The lines of energy for Zenáthras had been mapped and these ley lines were marked with trails of powdered diamond dust, with intricate magic circles drawn at their intersections where choirs of hundreds were set to praying day and night, invoking all the powers at their disposal.  Great churches and hidden ateliers alike were sought out, their magic tuned to the same frequency as the Well and added to the inflow of mortal power.

Finally, in Millennium 5 Year 301 it was complete, with many of the plan's architects dead and a new generation overseeing the project.

At first, it was uncertain whether or not it had succeeded, but over the following days, across the whole of the world, ordinary people began to experience a fleeting connection with the Well while those trained in arcane arts began to discover how to tap into the power and wield it.  The dream was done and now everyone had the potential to become heroes, if only they were willing to grasp the power that dwelt there for all.

For two centuries, it was a wondrous thing, with magic integrated into every aspect of daily life.  Even the most banal of peasants knew a spell or two to help with chores about the house, while children could attend famous academies that would teach them the art of becoming a hero worthy of legend and song.

Why it ended, no one truly knows, but how it ended is the most famous—and terrible—story in all of Zenáthras, for it is the tale of Ren Shin and Alutuus, the Traitor-Heroes, and of the last magic war fought upon the Field of Broken Crowns.