Eversky: Eye of the Abyss
Illan - A History
One hundred and fifty years ago, the pilgrims of the Silent Fleet set foot on the small island of Illan. Weary, hungry travelers, they represented the last remainders of the Free Races. Humans, Dwarves, Gnomes, and Halflings, races that had for decades been locked in fearsome battle amongst one another, now united by one common thread: Desperation. So long had the Empire of Arcturia and the Kingdom of Kolmitar shed blood over disputed territories and control of the skies that their rulers seemed to shrug off their other duties in favor of fueling a costly and bloody war. Most historical accounts would agree that it was the human civilization of Arcturia, led by Imperator Mariano, that sparked the conflict. Mariano was a devoted disciple of The Adamant Tribunal, a court of deities who personify the ultimate pursuit of justice at all costs.
Though the war began as a series of minor skirmishes over mining rights or border disputes, the tit-for-tat between the two stubborn rulers escalated as both emperor and king thought himself responsible for avenging the fallen. Perhaps it was because Imperator Mariano and King Ranik had both risen to power in their own lands by virtue of their status as Justiciars, those individuals who have been chosen by the Adamant Tribunal to carry one of the five fabled hammers of judgment, that neither side would back down. But it was Mariano who eventually lost himself in his lust for vengeance and began to refuse all diplomatic appeals, binding himself by holy oath to destroy Ranik, and throw his Justiciar’s Hammer into the fires of the mountains beneath his capital city.
But as their struggle raged on, those species known to Man as the “Lesser Races” took the opportunity to secure their hold on the islands and territories just beyond those of the Humans and Dwarves. Because constant migration is the prime concern for all the races of Eversky, this move placed the future of the Free Races in jeopardy. Though the takeover was by no means a coordinated effort, the Orcs, Kobolds, Goblins, and Lizardfolk, the Sahuagin, the Yuan-ti, the Slaad, and tribes of strange creatures known as Shifters, all came to settle on the islands where the Earthly races had planned to migrate once their own lands approached the Maelstrom. This infestation was not planned, and would have been easily prevented had the two nations not been distracted by their own conflict. Yet, even as the citizens of Arcturia and Kolmitar stared down into the black Abyss, the war continued, and as both nations showed increasing signs of weakness, each believed the other stood closer to crumbling under the pressure of war. The commoners of both civilizations begged for their rulers to lay down their arms and begin their long overdue search for a new home, but the Maelstrom has a way of penetrating into mankind’s very spirit, and perpetuating the cruelty and bloodlust within. And so, the war grew only more fearsome, and the lands beyond more dangerous.
Even as King Ranik followed the advice of his counselors, offering truce after truce to the bloodthirsty emperor, Mariano continued his crusade forcing the Dwarven war hero to lead his armies to battle again and again. So far had the dark influence of the Maelstrom woven throughout his spirit that Mariano became unrecognizable even to those who had known him dearly. It was in the depths of the Dwarven caverns that the two eventually faced off. Legend says that Mariano defeated Ranik handily, almost too easily, and threw the dwarf and his Justiciar’s hammer into the fires that burned below the mountain. Some say that the dark energy that coursed through Mariano’s veins gave him an unfair advantage in the fight. Others chalk it up to the exhaustion Ranik was under as a commander who had ridden into battle on the front lines with his troops, compared to Mariano who had led the war from his throne. All we know now is that since that battle, Ranik, despite his loss, is revered as a martyr of the Dwarves people, and inducted into the Brethren of Moradin, the canon of ancestors to whom the Dwarves pay homage and tribute.
But though the broken dwarven nation mourned their fallen king, Imperator Mariano never got the chance to boast of his victory. He was found slain in his quarters on the voyage home, the sword of one of his lieutenants run through his heart. The name of the betrayer was never identified, partially because the sword was generic to all of the lieutenants, and partially because no one ever bothered to investigate. The weary soldiers, wanting only to return home to their families, simply threw the tyrant’s body overboard, and continued their journey home.
The remnants of Kolmitar and Arcturia hovered on the brink above the brink of the Abyss, and there would be little time to prepare for the migration to come. With only a few skyworthy airships left on each side, and a decimated military incapable of defending settlers from any serious threat in the lands beyond, the real hardship, was just beginning.
First came the lotteries. Then the riots. In Arcturia, the nobility and military were the first to have their passage reserved on the fleet. Poorer families scrapped together their entire life savings for a chance to bribe their way onto the departing ships. Others sold themselves into slavery for a ticket. Most were left behind. As the ships took to the skies, Crying mothers held their children up to the ship’s crowded decks, to no avail, and desperate men clung to the mooring ropes only to find themselves plummeting down into the darkness as they were cut. Some say the anguish and abandon of those left behind left a permanent imprint on the fabric of the world, and legends tell of captains who have flown through the skies where Arcturia once floated, and were driven mad by the echoing wails of despair that still haunt and carry on those winds.
There were no shots fired when the human and dwarven fleets met in the same skies. Their people had been through enough, and no words needed to be said. Eventually, the two fleets merged into one, sharing food, water, and medical supplies. There was much to think about during the long journey, for everyone. Some wondered why they had fought, some wondered why they had stood aside and let the carnage continue, others thought about the millions left behind and why they had been chosen, while others merely mourned. During those days aboard the Silent Fleet, there was little to do beyond manual labor to keep oneself entertained, and few were safe from the specter of self-introspection. But it was then that a powerful new alliance was forged. Man and Dwarf, despite their ideological differences, had in common the scars of struggle, and through this bond, they vowed to rise again stronger than before.
Almost a decade of travel passed by, with the fleet hopping from island to island to stop and gather what precious resources they could scavenge before being set upon by the wild beasts of the land. Eventually they reached a small, uninhabited island, rich with open pasture, tame forests, and mountainsides laden with copper and tin. It was as if the gods themselves had come together to provide for them, but after all they had been through, few believed that it was the Adamant Tribunal that was responsible for this miracle.
On the first night of their arrival on Illan, the pilgrims of the Silent Fleet gathered under the moonlight on the island’s grassy plains. After the long and solemn voyage, the passengers of the fleet, giddy with mirth and newfound hope, built a grand bonfire and feasted in celebration. After dinner was had, they circled around the fire and knelt in gratitude, offering prayer to whatever gods had come together to give them another chance. It was during that vigil that the gods of Illan revealed themselves and welcomed the settlers to their domain. The god Pelor promised them bountiful crops in exchange for their commitment to charity. Melora asked only that they respect the land, and so it would respect them. Kord swore to reward bravery with security and strength, while Ioun asked only that they preserve a dedication to knowledge and the arts. Avandra promised to safeguard those who might one day travel beyond Illan’s skies, so long as they welcomed foreign travelers in turn. A new generation of children was conceived under the moonlight of Shenanine, goddess of love, while those who had lost loved ones were accompanied in a solemn mourning ceremony by the cold, mysterious, but calming presence of the Raven Queen. This was the one and only time that the gods of the Septim made themselves visible to man, and today, there are even some who doubt whether their appearance was ever even real, and not a collective hallucination of the exhausted pilgrims. But as painful memories were finally laid to rest, a new life would begin.