(ii) The Age of Light
The Age of Light – usually referred to as the true First Age – was the first, and perhaps, greatest triumph of Men in the history of Erâth. This bright period of prosperity saw immense advancements in the ability of Men to tame the environment, the expansion of Men into every corner of Erâth, and prolonged life far beyond that of Men before, or ever after. It was the first time that Men began to believe their place in the foundations of Erâth, as the seventh great power, alongside the Mirèn, Namirèn, Illuèn, Duithèn, Sarâthen and Portèn. This time in the history of Men was the brightest ever seen; it was also the briefest.
The First Age lasted a mere three hundred years; by comparison, it had taken Men nearly three thousand years to reach this point in their brief development, and nearly six thousand years have passed since. Men soon learned to use their advancements to stave off the inevitability of death, increasing lifespans rapidly to nearly two hundred years, excepting any unforeseen accidents. Even disease was nearly eradicated.
It was in this greed and desire to become the Eternal as Men thought they were fated to be, that the Namirèn and Duithèn saw their opportunity. It is also possible that they perceived these endeavors as a great threat – in defeating death, there would be little room left in Erâth for their like. Infiltrating the very fabric of the society of Men, these two races of darkness wove a spell of deceit that pitted Men against each other; and throughout, saw their opportunity to rid Erâth of their own greatest threat – the Mirèn.
The eventual downfall of the First age saw the annihilation of the cities of Men, the laying to waste of entire continents of Erâth, and the complete destruction of the Mirèn, and Erâth would never be the same again.
The Advancement of Men
By the end of the Age of Awakening, the populations of Men had spread throughout much of Erâth. Only the fringe lands of Aélûr, Narün and Faerün remained largely uninhabited, with only small towns and settlements along their coasts. Great roads between cities were laid down, allowing rapid travel from place to place: at the height of the First Age, one could travel across the continent of Thaeìn in less than four days. Great ships carried people in their thousands between the lands of Erâth, and where the shores of two lands grew close, vast bridges spanning hundreds of leagues were constructed, linking the two lands and allowing free travel from nearly any part of Erâth to virtually any other.
Yet through this immense growth, the race of Men understood instinctively the role of the Portèn in the growth and life of the world itself, and refrained from building in ever expanding towns from the hubs their cities inevitably became. As a result, the cities grew ever taller, rather than ever wider. Spires of glass and steel would rise over a mile from the world, bridges like fine tendrils between these soaring towers. It is said that from the highest towers of Cathaï, one could see to the four corners of Erâth. Each of the innumerable cities of Men were shining in their glory, but by far the most inspiring location in all of Erâth was Viura Râ, the Eternal City, on the northernmost tip of the land of Oríthiae, the last of all the land in the North.
This towering city shined brighter than any other, and in it dwelt the fairest lords and brightest minds Erâth had to offer. Here lived side by side Men, Mirèn and Illuèn, and even the few Sarâthen spent much of their time in the vast libraries, in which were documented the greatest learnings of Men. Viura Râ was built so that nearly every building, every window, looked to the North. From here one felt the very ending of the world, from the high towers, looking out over nothing as the eternal abyss swallowed the oceans of Erâth without end.
It was here, in Viura Râ, that the greatest achievements of the Men of the First Age were brought about. The ability to communicate with the distant ends of Erâth, the building of transport that could bring one across the greatest distance in a matter of days, and even the ability to create soaring machines that could stay aloft for hours, were all discovered first in this grand and inspirational city. The wisdom of the Sarâthen kept the innovation moving forward continuously, and before long nearly every want and desire of Men could be fulfilled by their very creations.
Aspirations of Eternity
Despite all of the creations of Men that undoubtedly made the long lives of Men in Erâth a luxury, there remained one thing that no invention could cure: the inescapable finality of death.
It was not long before the inventors of Men turned their focus to this matter. Since the earliest days of the First Age, medicines had leaped forward, and many of the diseases that plagued earlier civilizations and greatly impeded their own progress were eliminated entirely. Lepers faded into myth; childhood illnesses no longer left one disfigured, and even the gravest of injuries rarely proved fatal. The art of healing was brought from the crudity of blood and leeches to the finest and most precise of surgical instruments, able to sever and stitch very nerve endings themselves, without scarring the surrounding tissue.
Yet for all this advancement, the most it seemed to achieve was a prolonging of life, but certainly not the indefinite postponement of death itself; whether Men lived for fifty years, a hundred or two hundred, fate would eventually catch up, and bring the elderly and the young alike to the grave.
The introduction of Men to the other powers of Erâth at first inspired them to grow, and to learn. Soon, however, this growth turned to greed in an unstoppable quest for knowledge, and ultimately for eternity. Seeing that the six races encountered already represented the powers of Life, Death, Light, Dark, Wisdom and Power, they concluded that the seventh power, Eternity, must in fact be the race of Men itself. This led to a relentless frustration that, should the race of Men indeed be eternal, why were they then fated to die, when beings such as the Mirèn seemed to outlive any other in Erâth?
In seeking for the answers to the riddle of eternal life, Men bent ever more time and effort into their own researching, their own knowledge, and their own experience, forgetting that what they knew of healing had originated with the Mirèn themselves so many centuries ago. Gradually, the Mirèn faded from the consciousness of Men, departed from Viura Râ, and were only known in the fringe lands of Erâth, restricting themselves to the lands of Cathaï and Narün, where they largely lived in solitude, keeping the darker forces of Erâth at bay.
Before long, the greatest advances yet in the realms of medicine were being made, many in Viura Râ; the invisible structure of flesh and blood was known, the function of bone and sinew, and the first tantalizing glimpses at the working of the mind itself soon swept the consciousness of Men. It even became possible to use the flesh of one person to create new flesh, and in doing so Men saw the future of Eternity laid before them. Placing all their faith in the science of discovery, they bent ever more effort on solving the final problem of all (as they saw it) – the escaping of the fate of death.
The Rise of Death and Darkness
It was not for Men to know in this First Age that the goal they sought – eternal life – was not to be achieved. It is not for Men to live forever, nor indeed is it the fate of any living creature; to not die is the very antithesis of life itself, and without death, life cannot be defined.
Of all the seven races of Erâth, only two were possibly long-lived enough to be considered within the range of immortality: the Portèn, and the Sarâthen. Whether the Portèn do not die, however, is not certain; since every Portèn in Erâth seems inextricably connected to every other Portèn, it is quite possible to imagine that, should one of the Portèn die, another may grow in its place, leading to a continuous power that does not diminish.
The Sarâthen, possibly, are not quite alive, or at least, not quite of Erâth. Being so few, they seemed, by the measure of any race, to have always been – Erâth without Sarâthen is unknown. Their role in the rise and fall of the First Age of Men cannot be ignored; if it was the Sarâthen who precipitated the meeting of Men and the other races of Erâth, it was equally the Sarâthen who failed to prevent the insidious influence of the Namirèn and the Duithèn. How this could have come to pass is uncertain; despite their gift of foresight, the Sarâthen were powerless to prevent the ruin of Men that would come so soon. Perhaps they placed such faith in Men that they were able to overlook the single-mindedness of their feverish work towards immortality; perhaps they simple found themselves unheard by the self-centered new vision of Men.
Regardless, the Sarâthen found themselves powerless to stop what was to come. Perceiving that the race of Men were slowly forsaking their alliances with the Mirèn, and to an extent the Illuèn. The Namirèn, led by the Duithèn, began slowly to meld themselves into the lives of Men. Their influence began to be felt from the adultery of the smallest of people, to the ill decisions of lords and kings of lands. Gradually, the minds of Men darkened, and they perceived threats among their own kind. Where once the diverse kingdoms of Men considered themselves one, the whispering influence of the Duithèn brought suspicion down upon the race of Men, and each country began to trust only to itself, and saw the pursuits of others as attempts to achieve the prize of eternity before all others.
It is probable that the Duithèn and Namirèn would have brought themselves more directly into the lives of Men eventually, but it is almost certainly the relative absence of the Mirèn that facilitated their progress. Without the power of life, the long lives of Men began slowly to falter, and as the skies darkened with the pollution of the ever-larger industries of Men, the Namirèn began to spread themselves throughout the kingdoms of Men, bringing with them death as they went.
By this time, Men had almost ceased to see the influence of the other races of Erâth entirely, and it is quite possible they failed to see that the shortening of their lives and the dirtying of their world was the result of the powers of death and darkness. Blaming themselves at first, the kingdoms of men fell to fighting, first over small resources, then over technology, and finally over the ownership of land itself. In all of this, the power of the Namirèn and the Duithèn grew ever stronger, encouraged by the hatred of Men for each other. It was soon that war was widespread throughout Erâth, with Men being sent to their deaths pitted only against other Men, as the Illuèn and Sarâthen looked on in horror.
The Destruction of the Mirèn
Though the downfall of the civilization of Men at the hands of the Namirèn and Duithèn is tragic enough in itself, the final blow, and the sealing of the fate of Men, was in the inspired blaming of the Mirèn themselves. By this stage in the dissolution of Men, desperate to seek a reason for the decline of their society, the two races of Darkness and Death saw in the bitterness of Men the means to defeat one of the founding powers of Erâth, and so set their dominance of the world forever.
Amidst the now near-constant battles, on land and at sea, a consideration began to filter through the ranks of Men, across borders and over seas. Rising too late from their own selfish interests, the race of Men looked and found the Mirèn had deserted them. Men began to see their downfall begin with the time the Mirèn began to leave their world, and blamed the Mirèn for taking the long life of Men with them. This flawed vision fueled the burning hatred that now swept over the race of Men, and with their minds bend now on this thought, Men conspired to destroy the Mirèn.
This led to new considerations; what sort of device could kill a race that was indeed life itself? From focusing their minds on the development of life-prolonging technology, Men now turned their attention the business of inventing machinery for ending life. And what testing ground would prove better than their own neighboring kingdoms?
Unsettled by the thought that another land of Men would arrive at a more destructive power before themselves, the kingdoms of Men moved from engaging each other in face-to-face battle to preempting the attacks of their own people, and with the greater destructive power they now possessed, entire kingdoms fell and were overrun. Yet Men were still not able to defeat the Mirèn; weapons for killing Men would be of little use against beings of life itself.
And so as the efficiency of the killing machines of men grew, so did the spread of damage their machines caused. From devices to destroy an individual, the arms of men began to destroy first battalions, and then armies, and finally towns in their entirety. Across the vastness of Erâth, fires burned freely, unleashed by the flames rained down upon the ground.
Alone in Erâth, only the city of Viura Râ remained dedicated to the pursuit of health and wisdom; but even here, they could not ignore the goings-on of the world around them, and fear grew in this place that the kingdoms of Men would see their city as a goal of conquest. With sadness and despair, the great minds of Viura Râ set to creating weapons of destruction themselves, and though with the mere intention of defense, it is unsurprising that these weapons were by far the most destructive of any yet built in Erâth.
For a brief period, the knowledge that one kingdom of Men possessed far greater destructive power than any other brought a halt to the wars of Men; uncertain how Viura Râ might choose to use their weapons, the remaining kingdoms of Men began to cease their own fighting, and instead conspired to destroy in one fell swoop the people of Viura Râ and the Mirèn. Both races resided in the North of Erâth; it would be a simple matter to set endless fire to both lands, and exterminate the two races.
Pushed to desperation, the people of Viura Râ begged the races of Men consider peace; assured them that the pursuit of long life and knowledge could indeed continue. It was to no avail. Convinced that such thoughts were the deception of a corrupt race, the kingdoms of Men became resolute in their desire to destroy life in Erâth as they knew it.
It was with wretchedness that the people of Viura Râ moved against their own kind first, and sealed their doom; sending fire raining down upon the lands of Erâth as never before seen, they hoped to end Men’s capabilities of destruction, but it was too late. The kingdoms of Men retaliated, and the lands of Erâth burned the world over, for thousands of leagues across land and sea. And when the apocalyptic flames were spent, the Mirèn were no more, and the race of Men all but destroyed.
The Fall of the First Age
And so came about the fall of the First Age. The lands of Narün and Golgor were waste; the city of Viura Râ was shattered, and not a man was left there alive. The flesh of millions was burned away, and their bones turned to ash. For a hundred years, the sky remained black, and the Namirèn and Duithèn gleefully roamed the land, bringing despair to what remained of the race of Men.
As though the near total destruction of their kind wasn’t enough, the straggling remains of Men fell to bickering amongst themselves, killing each other for food and for fire. Small groups of people wandered the desolate wilderness in vain, searching for answers to what they allowed to happen. The art and beauty of the First Age of Men was gone, and in its place the cold brutality of survival. There were no crops, no farms, no towns, and no civilization. Men turned again wild. And the wild grew untamed.
Among the greatest darknesses to rise from this great destruction was the twisting of races. Beyond the immediate death of the fires of Men, thousands were left to live, hideous and deformed, mutated and in pain. The worst of these died within the years following, but many lived on, spawning new breeds of race, all of which were given to the forces of darkness. In their resentment, many of these races swore oaths to continue the destruction of Men until there lived yet not one in all of Erâth.
However, the resilience of Men is strong, and the new threat of these deformed creatures led to a renewed binding between the remaining people of Erâth, and in their small groups were able to resist, and, in darkness, were able to live. So was the ending of the First Age.