As I’ve been beavering away on the background for this setting, I thought I’d share a little more of the history of this world, events which occurred prior to the current age. Let me know what you think!
Many centuries ago, a civilisation arose, centred on the Aurassic Islands to the North of the Isle of Mourne. It was a civilisation of great scholars and brought forth an age of great prosperity and learning.
The primary deity worshipped by this civilisation was Helios, the Lord of Light, and the people of this civilisation called themselves Solarians, in honour of their god.
However, the volcanic islands that the Solarians occupied were not blessed with much in the way of natural resources and as the less civilised lands to their South were inhabited by warring tribes of barbarians, trade with these lands was all but impossible.
Aurelian, leader of the Council of Sages, proposed that as the barbaric people of the South refused to trade, and did not realise the benefits this would garner them, perhaps their resources should be taken by force.
This did not sit well with the Council, as they had always promoted the idea of diplomacy over aggression, but Aurelian’s arguments began to sway the more power-hungry members of the council.
Whether Aurelian was influenced by one of the lesser gods of the Solarian pantheon, whispering in his ear as he slept, is unknown, but Aurelian plotted behind the scenes and began to subtly discredit those who opposed his views. In cases where this was not successful, he employed more direct means and a spate of ‘accidental’ deaths occurred, until his will was unopposed.
Aurelian then declared himself the first emperor of Solaria and thus rose the Solarian Empire, borne of blood and violence.
The Rise of the Solarian Empire
The Solarian Empire spread southwards from the Aurassic Islands, initially occupying the Isle of Mourne and imposing its rule on the peoples of this land and taking their resources as their own.
However, this was not enough for Aurelian, and his eyes fell upon the greater continent of Ortania.
As the soldiers of the Solarian Empire were highly trained, dedicated and many, bolstered by the conscripts from the lands it had conquered, the Solarian legions invaded Ortania, slowly but surely increasing their hold on the lands of men, until most of the continent was under their control.
The Seeds of Destruction
The Solarian Empire held sway for many centuries, occupying Mourne and much of Ortania, ruled by a dynasty of emperors from the capital city of Heliopolis, on the largest of the volcanic Aurassic Islands.
However, trouble was brewing.
Emperor Magnus had stated that the sun would never set on the Solarian Empire, as it was blessed by Helios himself, and therefore the worship of any god other than Helios was declared heresy.
As the emperor’s word was law, there followed a period in which the worship of gods other than Helios was brutally suppressed.
Whilst most of the populace bowed down to this, the worshippers of the moon goddess Selene merely removed themselves from public view, continuing their worship and practices in secret.
Some of the lesser gods of the Solarian pantheon approached Helios, arguing that this monopoly of worship was unfair and would diminish their powers. Helios listened to their pleas, but was proud of what his worshippers had achieved.
‘Look at what my followers have created,’ he said, ‘An empire that spans the World. What have your followers done of note? Nothing that compares to this. Had you been less afraid to employ you godly might, you might not now be in the position of losing it.’
Kaustos, Lord of Fiery Destruction, gathered together a group of disaffected lesser gods, stating that unless something was done, they faced extinction, as their powers would dwindle as their worshippers turned away from them. As the Solarian Empire was the seat of the Church of Helios’ power, he reasoned that its destruction would break Helios’ hold, allowing the populace to worship whichever god they chose.
Whilst many of the gathered gods balked at such extreme measures, a handful were swayed by his rhetoric – Mavia, Lady of Discord and Insanity; Morbus, the Plague Lord; and Cyrene, Muse of Ruinous Obsession.
Realising that Heliopolis was not only the wellspring of the Church of Helios, but also the lynchpin that held the Solarian Empire together, they chose this as their target. As Helios kept a careful watch upon his favoured city, they knew that they must be subtle with their machinations, starting small, to ensure that once Helios eventually realised what was happening, it would be too late to prevent it.
Morbus descended upon the continent of Ortania, infusing part of his essence into the smallest of agents – the humble flea. Thus, the plague known as the Yellow Death began to spread across the land, carried unwittingly to other shores on the backs of rats.
Cyrene then began her part, posing as a well-travelled scholar returned from distant lands, carrying with her ancient tomes of arcane knowledge – knowledge that she speculated may hold the cure to the Yellow Death. Of course, this was merely a ruse, as the books contained forbidden lore, lore that corrupted those that read it, causing them to believe that the ends justified the means, no matter what the cost.
Mavia manifested as a courtesan, whose ethereal beauty caught the eye of the Emperor, and was soon sharing his bed. She shared the supposed rumours and gossip that she had overheard, causing the emperor to become paranoid and fearful that those he considered his trusted advisors were plotting to overthrow him.
And whilst these individual strands began to weave together, Kaustos laboured beneath the ground, using his powers to reignite the long-dormant volcano that cast its looming shadow over the great city of Heliopolis.
The Fall of Heliopolis
Disease ran rampant through the Empire, finally reaching the streets of Heliopolis, where the dead lay where they fell, their bodies covered with weeping yellow sores.
The emperor, having dispatched assassins to rid himself of his perceived enemies, had finally succumbed to madness and locked himself away in his palace, refusing to acknowledge that any problems existed beyond its walls.
Those sages who had searched within the forbidden texts, believing they had discovered a cure, rashly performed a sorcerous ritual to restore those who had perished to life. And the dead did rise, as unliving abominations who stalked the streets, preying on those who still drew breath.
And above the city, ominous clouds of smoke rose from the mountain…
The priests of Helios cried out to their god, asking why he had forsaken them. Helios looked down, shocked not only by what he saw, but also that he had failed to notice it sooner.
Realising that these occurrences were not of natural origin, Helios descended from his throne into the city that bore his name.
Extending his senses, he caught the scent of godly power, and stalked through the streets, seeking those who had wrought this damage.
The three conspirators, sending his presence, retreated beneath the mountain, joining Kaustos in the fire-lit chamber.
Helios confronted the rebel gods below the mountain, entreating them to end their destruction, but was rebuffed.
Tremors shook the city of Helipolis, as the gods unleashed their powers upon one another, seeking victory. However, the mortal plane was not meant for such displays of godly might, causing the now-active volcano to erupt with such magnitude that it not only destroyed Heliopolis, but most of the island on which it stood, leaving nothing behind except for a smoking caldera.
The Retreat of the Gods
Whilst Helios had emerged triumphant, much of his godly might had been expended in the battle.
However, realising that his own pride and hubris has caused this chain of events, he made a vow that he would protect his people, his world, from these rebel gods for eternity. He gathered the remnants of his power about him and banished the rebels gods outside of existence, imprisoned forever more beyond the realm of Man.
This took a heavy toll on him and he returned above much diminished, no longer able to manifest upon the mortal plane.
These rebellious deities – Kaustos, Mavia, Morbus and Cyrene – whose names were soon lost to antiquity, became known collectively as the Whispering Gods.
They wait beyond the walls of existence, sending dreams through cracks in reality, to those minds receptive to their will, their only goal to escape from their prison and wreak dire vengeance upon the world of Man.
4 thoughts on “The World of Rushlight”
Lovely background Jez, and sets up some interesting aspects for your upcoming gaming
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Very cool. A legacy to define what powers are ascendancy and what is in decline.
How long ago did these events occur?
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Roughly 400 years ago, but I was fairly vague in the text, just stating ‘many centuries.’ If you think of the Solarian Empire as a rough analogue of the Roman Empire and the current date as around the time of the first crusade (i.e. 1096) that should give you a rough idea of the setting’s timeline.