Alair - Holy Wars
The date, by the ancient Imperial calendar still used in most of human Alair, is 1818; more than a hundred and fifty years since the time of Gorfang, Eloy, Lynien and Méabh.
The past century has been characterized by a dramatic rise in the prominence of Gods, Goddesses and their cults. Many feel this is a reaction to the turmoil of the Age of the Warlords, especially around the time of the fall of Vorsand and collapse of Tarlanor. This has not always been a smooth or universally accepted process...
In the North, the collapse of Tarlanor left chunks to be absorbed by Dalaghendor and New Tellare, while the regions around the two largest remaining cities of Lossal and Minensal stabilized into independent countries under the control of those cities, both allied to New Tellare. Lossal is also the central base of the followers of Lynien, Lady of Chance, the Balancers of Nebekheshut. Tolerated in Pepterus, they are less welcome elsewhere. The Versate Pass and the country around its' mouth remain under the control of the dragon Saryn Darrath; these have become a depopulated wasteland known as the Drachenfels from which dragons occasionally issue to trouble the north of Alair. Vorsand remains ruined, still enmeshed in the Steel Jungle and watched over by the imprisoned Elf Hammer. Many believe Skufruss will return to reclaim it one day.
The orcish empire created by Gorfang Deathdrinker- the Gorfangach- now controls all the ancient orc-fortresses in the northern Erean Mountains, and the population of orcs has increased massively. The worship of the old orcish gods has been completely supplanted by that of Hektis, now seen as an orcish war god, with small hidden cults of Sabath and Lynien operating in secret throughout the empire. A state of constant low-level war exists between the Gorfangach and the dwarvish kingdoms, although neither side can muster the strength to break the other's strongholds and hostilities are restricted to border fights, dirty tricks and assassinations.
The Gorfangach is also at war with the Kordasa. Quite apart from the cultural differences, two new and dynamic nations having war gods as patrons sharing a border make conflict almost inevitable. The eastern foothills of the Erean adjoining the Kordasa have become a shattered no-man's-land, wracked by constant, merciless warfare.
Enning and New Tellare remain stubbornly neutral. The prescience of Thelvian Tyrkor and the military might of the Sledgehammer make them unbeatable as things currently stand. New Tellare is the last foothold in the North for the old Imperial Gods, and Enning remains firmly closed to all temples, priests and forms of religion, making it a popular place to conduct diplomacy on neutral ground. This has extended to the hiring out of professional diplomats and negotiators, the Arbitairi, across most of Alair.
From its' founding as a shared human and lizard-man nation, Dalaghendor was closely linked to the cult of Shuskhrah; in the wake of the civil war in 1650, the priesthood steadily tightened their grip on the country. Allowing humans to enter the priesthood was a master-stroke in keeping popular support, and the ejection and proscription of all other religions in 1673 marked the completion of the takeover. While not truly a theocracy, the ruler of Dalaghendor is now always a priest, and he as well as all the significant functionaries of the court are always lizard-men. Tensions between Dalaghendor, Pepterus and New Tellare are fairly high - not least because of the Dalaghendan policy of executing 'heretics' by ritual drowning - but the Dalaghendans know they can't tackle New Tellare and war seems unlikely.
Rumors abound of some secret cabal of sorcerers lurking deep in the Trakar, but as anyone sent to investigate never comes back or is found wandering with no memories, details are unknown.
A hundred years is nothing to an elf, bur even so Belamir has changed significantly in the last century. The open, verdant borders have been closed, replaced by the Stormwall, a vast earthwork wall encircling the whole kingdom. Expansion has been halted at those walls, though the Desolation has been pushed back to a few pockets to the north. Strong hill forts dot the borders, with magic woven through and around them to prevent intrusion. Despite all this, travel and trade within the elvenrealm are open and welcomed.
However, all is not peaceful within the elven kingdom. Small groups of elves in widely scattered places have turned from the ancient gods they brought to Alair to the dark and secretive cult of Sabath the Adversary. No sooner is one nest of his followers stamped out than another appears, hidden in the shadows and striving to overthrow the old gods. Persistent rumors claim that a sinister and elusive agent - the Scorpion Queen - heads the cult of Sabath among the elves, but no evidence exists to support this. The discord created by the cells of Sabath's cult has cast a pall over the elves' return to their ancient home and may escalate to civil war in time.
The Freeport of Belegond remains a trade hub, and a destination for trading ships from strange and unknown lands far away. Of all the nations of Known Alair, the Belegondans are by far the greatest mariners. Some claim that many are also pirates, but no proof has been advanced. As befits a city-state based on freedom of trade, Belegond welcomes all faiths and temples as long as their adherents pay their taxes and keep the peace. Followers of the free-wheeling cult of the Lady of Chance are quite common in recent years, and a temple has been built. Many areas of the city can be red, wild and exciting, if not exactly safe.
Since the days of Vardar Peacock, Stryre's feudal system has become ever more stratified and rigid, with wealth and power increasingly concentrated in the hands of the nobility and the commonalty kept firmly in their place. The merchant class has virtually disappeared, replaced by vassals in service to whichever local noble owns the region. With such resources and power at their command, the nobility have turned to internal wars as a means of competition, and there is usually at least one minor war going on at any given time. Mercenary bands from the north command a premium for service in these wars, though negotiating the local politics can be difficult and as dangerous as the fighting itself.
Unrest with Nhased is sporadic, as the Theocracy is mostly occupied with the Empire to the east and its' own internal problems, but the border is not a safe place to be.
The new Gods of the Triad, first worshipped in Stryre, have completely replaced the Imperial deities, although not without a struggle; three bitter civil wars were fought in the mid-1700s between followers of the two religions, and persecution of 'heretic' followers of the old gods remains brutal. The throne fell twice during this time and Peacock's line has died out (discounting the inevitable rumours of a hidden descendant heir lurking somewhere), to be replaced by the Tandalin house, currently headed by Queen Kylara I. The magnificent Basilica of Aderra in Narthal and its irreplacable library were early casualties of the fighting.
The renewed vigour of the Erlyid Empire under Crixus the Great and his successors resulted in renewed expansionism to the west, and war with Nhased. For ten years, mighty imperial legions strove with the Army of the Light of the One, back and forth over increasingly ruined country on the border. Despite nearly two thousand years of war-lore, the Empire was definitely coming off worst by 1792 when a single event changed everything. The Voice of The One, subsumed into Heaven on his death in 420, returned to Alair with the Word of The One.
Preaching at first at the very front line, he entered the holy city of Karsten and spoke to enraptured thousands in the great Cathederal of The One. The People of the One, he said, should not seek to conquer the infidel, only defend and protect themselves against his wiles and assaults. In a paroxysm of religious remorse, the commanders of the Light Ones pulled their forces back to Nhased's original borders and opened negotiations for an armistice.
It was this point that Cardinal Gilraid, Commissioner of the Designators of the True Faith, made the shocking claim that the newly-appeared prophet was not what he claimed to be, but an Imperial imtelligence agent.While the presentation of evidence and counter-evidence, witness and counter-witness lashed back and forth, the theological debate and accusations of heresy and blasphemy were more fiery by far. The monolithic Church of the One had never known internal disagreement on this scale, and the schism split the entire Theocracy into fragments, with adherents of each side scattered randomly across the country, each man examining his own faith to choose his side. After several bloody years of confusion the two factions established themselves into stronghold areas and settled into a protracted and savage civil war.The Gilraidists, the larger party, are hampered by fighting a war on two fronts, with both the Empire and with the Voicers. The latter are still guided by the Voice of the One, upon whose head the Gilraidists have placed an astronomical price.
The Imperial Renaissance initiated by Crixus the Great continued through the 18th century, with almost every aspect of Imperial life undergoing a renewal and re-energization. Territorial expansion to the north into the deserted remains of Orcland and the south-eastern Desolation has been unopposed, but south and east the Empire was strongly resisted by the Rokugani and the Nhased. With the eruption of the civil war in Nhased the Empire remains content to allow the factions to exhaust themselves and merely holds the borders against the Gilraidists. In the south, the war with the Rokugani rages on.
The traditional faiths of the Erlyid that once had adherents all across human Alair, are still honoured in the Empire, revered even more in these days of religious intensificaton and polarization. Worship of the One of Nhased or the Triad of Stryre is a crime punishable by death in the arena; preaching either faith by death by fire. The same applies to the followers of Sabath where they are found. Other 'heretical' faiths are not proscribed but are firmly discouraged.
Further south, the rumours of a mighty leader gathering the Nomad clans, first heard in the 1620s, came to fruition with the arising of the Mahdi. Touched by Hobushu the Archer and bearing several tokens of his favour, the Mahdi has welded the nomads into one people with a burning purpose of southward conquest. Only rumours of events in.the distant south have come to Known Alair, but many in the Empire and Stryre fear the resumption of the nomads' hostility to their ancient enemy - the Empire and its' descendants.
As the restoration of Belamir continues, more and more elves have migrated back to their ancient homeland. Some, however, particularly the younger generation born there, are unwilling to leave the island. Most of those remaining by 1818 are of this mood, Toledhel or Island Elves, and their eyes are turned westwards to the Sea. As yet, no trace of the cult of Sabath has been discovered in Viridor.