The Age of Ancients
Four thousand and some years ago, virtually the entire known world was ruled by a civilization known now, in various languages, as the Old Kingdom. Ruled by a High King and a collection of Magisters, the Old Kingdom is known to have been a cosmopolitan civilization incorporating most of the civilized races--rather than referring to the people of the Old Kingdom by race, most simply call them "the Ancients" collectively. There are few surviving records of this period, but based on those that have been recovered, it is known that the Ancients possessed incredibly powerful arcane magic that has rarely been duplicated since, and by using this magic to discern information about the nature of the world, they also achieved a level of technology unthinkable to most people today. The greatest mages in the Old Kingdom were the ruling Magisters, and the greatest among these was the High King himself. Though records on the subject of where the Magisters drew their powers from are among the scarcest of all, it is the almost universal opinion that the High King's godlike arcane mastery stemmed from an artifact called the Shadelight.
Exactly what the Shadelight was and where it came from is a mystery today. Some say it was the core of a star that fell to Arendia, others that it was once the heart of a mighty dragon, still others that it was a fabulous jewel unearthed from deep beneath the ground. Numerous depictions have been found in Old Kingdom ruins of the High King holding aloft a mirror-smooth orb radiating incredible power, and scholars who study the Ancients commonly believe this to be a representation of the Shadelight, though how accurate it is is unknown. Regardless of its exact nature, it is known that it was the source of the Old Kingdom's rulers' incredible arcane strength, extended the lifespan of the holder dramatically, and served as a power source for much of the magical technology the Ancients used.
How did such a powerful civilization come to an end? Alas, that is one of the many mysteries surrounding the Ancients. At a date marked by modern astrologers as precisely 4021 years ago, all records left by the Ancients abruptly cease, and none truly know what became of their writers. Many of the faithful believe that the gods punished the ancients for their hubris and increasing decadence by sending some great doom to purge them from Arendia, sinking their great capital city of Danu Talis beneath the ocean and destroying all they had built across the rest of the world. This theory has become quite popular, not least because, although other ruins from the Old Kingdom era have been found, no trace of their great capital has ever been located, nor has any clue as to the final resting place of the Shadelight itself.
The Age of Doubt
The end of the Old Kingdom was followed by a dark age that lasted for most of the next thousand years. The formerly civilized races dissolved into tribal communities and preyed on each other to survive. Almost no record of that period has been uncovered--what has been found is almost entirely discerned from cave paintings and other such images, since literacy was virtually lost. Magic was virtually forgotten without the Shadelight to serve as a power source for its practitioners, and the technological prowess of the Old Kingdom vanished completely. The absence of any reliable evidence as to events during this period led later historians to name it the Age of Doubt, and it remains a glaring gap in historical knowledge to this day.
The Age of Tribes
The end of the Age of Doubt was brought about not by changes in mortals, but by the intervention of the Fey for the first time in recorded history. Why the Fey chose to wait to begin making their existence known to mortals until now is unknown, but there are two primary theories--the first is that the gods, having thoroughly purged the pride and decadence of the Ancients from mortalkind, took pity on their creations once more and sent the Fey, their own children, to Arendia to help mortals rebuild, while the second is that the Fey had been present in Arendia for much longer, but had concealed their presence during the Old Kingdom era because they feared conflict with the Ancients. With continued contact with the Fey, the situation of mortals began to improve--the Fey taught mortals about the gods and brought them knowledge of divine magic, allowing them to begin rebuilding the civilizations they had lost with the Old Kingdom's fall. The loose bands of raiders and cannibals into which mortals had grouped themselves during the Age of Doubt evolved into more regimented tribes and clans dedicated to particular fey patrons and their respective gods. Among the tribes, some individuals chose to dedicate themselves to the gods and the teachings of the Fey more fully than their peers and serve as spiritual guides, and these people became the first druids. Many mortals began to rediscover the ruins left behind by the Ancients so long ago and attempt to pursue their arcane knowledge, but these people met great resistance and continual persecution from those who followed the Fey's teachings, for the Fey taught their faithful that they must not allow the Old Magic, as they called it, to once again seize control of their lives, and so those who continued to pursue it were forced to do so in secret and remained few in number. In this way, mortalkind began to redevelop civilization for approximately eight centuries.
The Age of Kings
1238 years ago, the Age of Tribes ended with the appearance of two particularly powerful Fey beings--the husband and wife Oron and Tiandra. Assuming the roles of protectors and guides to one particular tribe of humans in the northeast, the Ilarns, they taught a new approach to worship of the gods to which their brethren dedicated themselves. They told their followers that in order for mortals to progress, they must unite the disparate tribes under the banner of a cohesive civilization with a single, universal faith. Selecting six humans as their greatest disciples, they granted each one the magic of a particular god, and these six became the world's first clerics. Tiandra and Oron taught their six disciples that together, they could unite the mortal races and eliminate all trace of the Old Magic's taint from the world, ushering Arendia into a new golden age even greater than that of the Ancients.
With this as their goal, the disciples returned to their people and told them of what Tiandra and Oron had taught, and this soon led the Ilarns to found the Six Cities, crown their first kings and queens, institute the Temples of the six gods, and begin building armies to conquer the other tribes. In the 712 years since, the cities have gradually become more distant from each other, and their rulers scheme to steal power and dominion from their former allies, yet they are still united under their common goal of spreading the word of their "one true faith" to all the other civilizations of Arendia. And while they fight their battles and navigate their intrigues, the ruins of the Old Kingdom remain scattered across the world, many still unknown and waiting to be uncovered and explored. It is in this era, when opportunities for adventure hide around every corner, that we set our stories.