The history of Erâth can be defined by the passing of Ages. The Ages are not determined by a fixed passage of time, but rather by the predominant changes (or lack thereof) during that period, and the subsequent demise and ruin of those changes. In principal, the majority of Ages have lasted for around 3,000 − 4,000 years, placing the age of Erâth itself at some 30,000 years old. It is possible Erâth was in existence long before this, but given the lack of knowledge passed from one Age to the next, it is unknown if anything existed on Erâth during this period.
The events described in these books take place at the end of the Third Major Age, and in fact describe the ending of that Age and the beginning of the Fourth, and final, Age of Erâth. Many of the myths that impact the lives of these characters have their origins in the history of the Second Age, and the legends of the First Age. I will attempt to recount the development, major events, and downfall, of these Ages.
(i) Before the First Age
There were, in fact, no less than three Ages predating the First Age, but are not defined as Ages in the reckoning of Ages as they, in themselves, lead directly to the development of the First Age. This period of time leads from the origins of light and dark in Erâth, through the development of men and the eventual First Age, the Age of Light.
The ages leading up to the First age are the Age of Origins, the Age of Change, and the Age of Awakening. In contrast to the First, Second and Third Age, these are not defined by a rise and fall of civilizations, but rather by the developmental milestones that led to the First Age in the first place. Without the events that took place within this period, the First Age could not have come about, and therefore neither the Second nor Third Ages would have come to be. It is in this that the fates of Erâth can first be ascertained; the smallest creature in Erâth is tied to every other, as the greatest of Ages is tied to the fate of Erâth itself.
There are no surviving records from the First Age, or those leading up to it. Indeed, what is left of even the Second Age is mostly tale and legend; it is typical in the ruin of an Age for nearly all permanent record to be erased. It is in this that some of the certainty regarding the futility of change may have its origins; what better proof that things must always be as they were, than that all record of how they were different be effaced?
As such, the history of the First Age (and much of the second) will take the form of historical documentation. The concepts and events noted here may in fact not have taken place, or may not have happened as described. However, there is a likelihood of truth, based on what evidence is remaining in Erâth, and speculation on what must have happened in order for events to lead to the current state of Erâth.
The Age of Origins
It is possible that Erâth has always been. Much like the earth on which we dwell, there is no direct evidence of its creation, and without any knowledge of stars, galaxies or planets, there is no way to know whether Erâth is one of a multitude of other possible existences, or unique in the existence of the world. It has a sun, a moon, water and earth, fire and wind. These come and go as anywhere else; the sun rises, the moon sets, rains fall and oceans crash. In any case, Erâth was in existence long before the first men came into being, and before even the invention of light and dark.
The Age of Origins is defined by the rising of the first living things in Erâth. There were men, and beasts, naturally, but also a number of races that lived alongside men. Some these races originated in the different lands of Erâth, and it was only as the race of men grew out of the West and the land of Golgor that these races were encountered.
The early men of Erâth were brutal, and savage; most of the population led a nomadic existence, moving with the migration of the herds, sometimes for a thousand leagues, hunting and killing what was needed to survive. For nearly three thousand years men lived so, and their development was little beyond the use of stone tools and flame. During this period, men had neither the will nor the wisdom to grow, and their lifespans were typical to be less than thirty years.
As the race of men spent their earliest generations hunting and gathering, the other races of Erâth did not develop so. There were no less than six races of being in early Erâth, along that of Men; the Mirèn, the Namirèn, the Duithèn, the Illuèn, the Sarâthen, and the Portèn (these names are translated from the Ancient Speech, and are not what each race would call itself). Roughly translated, these are the Living, the Dead, the Darkness, the Illuminating, the Wise, and the Powers. Each of these races were given influence beyond that of Men; it has been considered by some that, with what appears to be a race of origin for each of the seven Ageless (and therefore the seven powers of Erâth) except for Eternity, that Men represent this power, and indeed it is Men who have prevailed the longest of all these races. It is ironic, then, that the race given only the power of will to survive, would outlast those that were given the ability to move beyond their realm.
Of these six (or seven, if you include Men) races, only four remain, and the Portèn have long ago grown into the roots of Erâth and no longer move; it is long since they have had any desire to go forward and change the fate of Erâth. The Mirèn were extinguished in the ruinous end of the First Age, and the Sarâthen, forsaking their own foresight and placing hope in Men to rebuild anew, deserted Erâth soon after the fall of the Second Age, despairing at the fate of Men. In consequence, the Narmirèn and the Duithèn, the races of Death and Darkness, have since begun to spread their influence over the lands of Erâth, with only the Illuèn remaining in small numbers.
During the Age of Origins, these seven races spread throughout the seven lands of Erâth, and through their influence the world itself grew, and formed, and shaped around them. The Mirèn were great healers, and brought life with them as the travelled; it is thought they are responsible for the song of crickets, and the scent of blossoms, and the silver sound of water on rock. The Portèn were curators of the land; it is through them that the forests grew tall and strong, the grass green, and the meadows golden. Other than human in form, they grew themselves around, and through, and into the trees and bushes themselves, encouraging them to grow. If one of the Portèn came to harm, every other would feel their pain, and this has given some to speculate that there is in fact only one Portèn, connected throughout all of Erâth. The Namirèn and the Duithèn, kept in check by the relentless spread of life in the beginnings of Erâth, were content merely to ensure the eventual cycle of life and death; rarely taking physical form, they were the takers of life and the bringers of grief. Their power was not long-reaching, however, and their influence was felt only when it was needed.
Overseeing all, the Sarâthen were few in number but great in wisdom. Given the power of foresight, they would roam the heights and depths of Erâth, appearing here and there always just when a word of wisdom was needed. During the Age of Origins, it is possible that it was their influence which eventually led to the meeting of the races of Erâth, and the eventual corruption of men. It is unlikely the Sarâthen foresaw the totality of what was to come over the Ages; even the wisest can be deceived, and the power and greed of darkness is not to be underestimated.
The early Men of Erâth, living wild in the land of Golgor, spread wide across the country, migrating from the northern shores across the fields and forests as far south as Golgor’s central deserts. Harsh climate and high altitude likely prevented them from exploring the wilderness edging the land, and without the development of ships they did not venture beyond the shores to the North. Existence for these Men would have been dark, with only camp fires to keep them warm through the nights, and ever-present animals and beasts seeking the flesh of Men. Population growth due to such dangerous living conditions was almost certainly a necessity, and in itself may have brought about the Age of Change, as the ever-increasing number of Men in Erâth made fast migration more difficult. Eventually, the women and children of Erâth would have settled in fixed locations for some time, with only the hunters venturing further afield for sustenance.
The Age of Change
The Age of Origins lasted for some three thousand years, and by the end of this time the world of Erâth was formed in its entirety, much as it continues to exist today. Much of Erâth remained uninhabited, with only the beasts and creatures dwelling in the far reaches of Aélûr and Thaeìn. Yet for all this stretch of time, the race of Men did not encounter any other race of Erâth (or not knowingly; the Namirèn and Duithèn are to found most anywhere there is death and grief). It is uncertain how their meeting did not occur sooner; it likely the Sarâthen can be implicated; in their form most like men, they may have influenced the course of men until the time was right for such an occurrence.
Gradually, the race of Men began to outgrow their primitive origins, and learned to govern the lands on which they lived. The Age of Change is defined by the gradual shift from a nomadic life to a more sedentary one, and the rise in population led to the building of villages and towns.
It was during the Age of Change that Men learned to shape the world around them. They cultivated seed and plant, and harnessed beasts to labor the fields. Over centuries, the skills of carpentry and masonry grew, and with these novel skills grew the villages, from small communities of huts to sprawling villages of board and timber. The growth in population led to ever larger towns, and from this the first realms of Men were born.
After nearly a thousand years, there were at least twenty to thirty individual fiefdoms of Men in the land of Golgor. These were spread far and wide over the plains, hills and forests of Golgor, and gradually each small realm developed its own culture and distinctiveness. The southern populations grew used to a warm, arid climate, and learned to live off dry plants and what small creatures roamed the lands. The northern cultures, with a milder climate, were the first to begin farming, and hence the first to establish rightful kingdoms, with nobility ruling the land in exchange for tithes of the laborers and farmers under them. Not all these kings were benevolent, and violence was often the only law enforced.
As these small kingdoms grew, they began soon to encounter resistance from neighboring realms, and battle ensued. Over the course of several hundred years, many of these early kingdoms fell to each other’s thirst for blood. Kings fell, and new ones arose in their places; realms merged and split, some seeking to conquer their neighbors and some seeking solitude, often retreating to the eastern mountains where siege was made difficult.
Eventually, these battles led to the development of machinery of war, and with the growth in ironmongery and manufactory, the sword and bow replaced the spear, and the stage was set for awesome battles across the land. A second, more pivotal development was that of seafaring, and soon the first ships sailed from northern ports to attack the southern coasts unaware. The sight of such vessels of war must have been a terror to behold, and the southern populations soon crumbled under this ingenious strategy.
After many centuries of blood, Men gradually grew restful, and the land of Golgor settled to nine or ten chief realms, each keeping uneasy peace with the others. In large part, this settlement was the result of an equality in arms between the kingdoms of Men; no one land dared wage war with another, for fear of retaliation and the annihilation of their people. With little land left to conquer, the northernmost kingdoms turned their eye to the sea, and began to wonder at what lay beyond the water’s horizon.
The island lands to the North of Golgor were the first to be discovered; early expeditions would almost certainly have not survived long, if only because of the remoteness of these places; to cover the hundred leagues or so to these islands would have taken months for these early voyagers. Eventually, however, the knowledge of lands beyond the coasts of Golgor inspired Men to seek to settle them, and the first colonies of Men grew in these places.
Not content with settling small islands, and encouraged by their findings so close, relatively, to the North of their lands, the northern kingdoms of Golgor began to venture yet further northward, no doubt losing many a vessel in doing so. After nearly three hundred leagues’ distance, they would have come across two things: the northernmost island in all of Erâth, and the edge of the world.
It is impossible to imagine what profound effect this discovery would have had on these early Men; the image of the end of the world, entire oceans pouring their life away into an unfathomable abyss, with nothing to be discerned beyond for all eternity, save the vaguest shapes of cloud and mist and steam. It is quite possible that some of the first explorers to discover the ending of Erâth, so awe-struck by the sight before them, allowed themselves to drift too near the edge, and found themselves hurtled to oblivion. It has never been known what fate awaits those who stray off the edge of the world.
The land that was discovered here, named Oríthiae, must have had a profound effect on these voyagers, being, as they believed, the last of the land in the world, and soon this place became the center of a new civilization. Its remoteness made it resistant to outside attack, and soon great towns of stone castles came into existence.
It is odd, then, in considering the expansion of the race of Men during the Age of Change, that they did not knowingly encounter any other race of Erâth. Throughout the other lands of Erâth – Cathaï, Thaeìn, Aélûr, and the others, the Mirèn and Namirèn and Illuèn and Duithèn, had settled, and lived with each other. It is possible that the Sarâthen were in contact with the race of Men, but they are so in like in form and manner to men that they most likely would not have been identified. It is almost certain that Men would have encountered Portèn, but so alike are they to the land around that again, Men are unlikely to have acknowledged their existence.
Indeed, many have speculated that it was in fact the influence of the Sarâthen that kept the races of Men separate from the rest of the world; perhaps in their foresight they considered it unwise for all the races of Erâth to exist as one during the bloody birth of the race of Men. What role the Sarâthen played in the events that would come, however, is uncertain. If they were responsible for the catastrophic events the race of Men would eventually perpetuate, it could explain their despair, and their departure from Erâth.
The Age of Awakening
The end of the Age of Change, and the coming of the Age of Awakening, can be defined by a single event: the defining of the seven powers of Erâth. Despite the prodigious growth in the race of Men, great tracts of unknown wilderness nonetheless separated their kingdoms, with only untended villages and settlements – largely ignored by the larger populations – dotted throughout the lands. Over years, though, the Illuèn, who were the most widespread race in Erâth, began to filter into the lands of Golgor, and rumor of a race “other than Men” began to spread throughout the lands. Again, perhaps under the governance of the Sarâthen, these rumors grew steadily enough that it was no great surprise that, when traveling through the expanses of plain and forest, Men began to slowly encounter these beings.
The Illuèn, being creatures of light, would have an immeasurable influence on the race of Men, and this began by their introduction to the powers of Erâth. Within a measure of a lifespans, the race of Men, which by now spanned nearly a thousand leagues from the northern shores of Golgor to the land’s central deserts, was swept by the consciousness that seven powers – Life, Death, Light, Darkness, Wisdom, Power and Eternity – governed the forming of the world, the fate of races, and life itself in all its forms. This awakening was possibly the most fundamental shift in of the course of Men; leading eventually to the momentous – and catastrophic – events that were to come.
The epiphany of the inextricable connection between life and death, light and dark, led directly to the desire to grow far beyond the existing realms of Golgor, and Men soon began to set forth on increasingly ambitious voyages across land and sea – this time to the West. Though the Illuèn generally held themselves aloof from the populations of Men, and rarely lived side by side, their influence was felt in the channeling of Men’s vehemence into building, rather than destruction. A renaissance of art and architecture was born, and the countries of Men began to work together to build first paths, then roads, then highways between the great cities of their kingdoms.
The first land to be discovered across the sea from Golgor was Cathaï, which at the time was largely uninhabited. Inspired by the discovery of untainted countries to claim, Men began to settle here and within a matter of centuries had grown to fill the land to an equal extent to the races remaining in Golgor. Seeking to discover the entirety of Erâth, Men soon once more set out to the West, and in due course, ventured onto the soils of Thaeìn, realm of the Mirèn.
Already influenced by the light of the Illuèn, the first encounters of Men with these delicate creatures gave to them prolonged life and health, and these explorers brought back with them tales of magical beings of healing and life. This soon made Thaeìn the most sought-after land in Erâth, and despite the later settling of Aélûr to the West, and even the great towers Narün in the North, Thaeìn remained considered as the great power, the hub of Erâth during the First Age of Light.
Throughout this vast and rapid expansion, the fires of invention began to burn bright, and the industries of stone and iron grew steadily into those of steam and brick, and then steel and glass. After nearly a thousand years, and the expansion of their race into nearly every corner of Erâth, the steady progress of Men began suddenly to leap ahead, and within a few hundred years had grown from wind-powered ships and beast-drawn cart to vessels that propelled themselves across sea and land. Cities grew from stonework castles to streets of brick houses, and eventually to great towers of steel and glass.
Throughout all of this, the race of Men lived in relative harmony with Erâth and the Mirèn and Illuèn. The influence of the Namirèn and Duithèn were largely unnoticed; Men acknowledged these powers as necessary – the balance to life and light – but rarely encountered them, and called upon them only when the lives of their kin were ended. So ended the Age of Awakening, and began the first true Age – the Age of Light.