Gods and Empires
The Third Age
The dawn of the Third Age was a time of great confusion and turmoil for countless centuries of war had taken its toll on Faeregoth and its scattered inhabitants. The dwarves retreated into the safety of their mountain homes while the elves, still coming to terms with their newfound mortality, were spread to the four corners of Faeregoth. Orcs, the devout follower of Pyros, still sought conquest over the other races as they slowly spread across the land. All the while, the fledgling race known as humans fought for their very existence, occupying the remains of what had once been the famed Garden of Aegwyn. There the first primitive tribes of humans were formed, and there they were eventually discovered by the elves. At first, the elves must have seemed like unto the Gods themselves in the eyes of those early humans. Indeed, the stories claim that many humans fled before the glory of the elves, some disappearing into oblivion, perhaps falling prey to the dangers that stalked the world in those days, while others became the ancestors of the many subraces of humans that exist throughout the world. Some few remained, however, to greet the elves. In particular, one tribe of humans, one of the largest that existed at the time, stood their ground while their leader greeted the elves, bidding them welcome to the Garden of Aegwyn in their own language. In amazement, the elves stared at the men and women before them, recognizing in them the work of Aegwyn, and so they greeted them in return, though not as strangers meeting for the first time, but as brothers and sisters reunited. To the leader of these people they gave a new name, and in honor of his courage they called him Valar, and his people the Valinor.
So in those days the humans and elves mingled freely with one another. Humans found the elves to be exceedingly beautiful and skilled, while elves found the humans to be exciting and energetic. The elves took in these strange new people, who they named the Valinor, and taught them many things. The elves viewed them at first as they would their own children, seeking to teach them patience and the long elven view of the world. They learned of reading and writing, elven song and dance, agriculture, smithing and crafting and so much more. The elves soon discovered that these humans even displayed an aptitude for magic, and so began to teach them the ways of spellcraft. As time passed, they discovered too that humans reproduced much faster, and saw in them a potential ally against the orcs and other savage creatures that plagued their existence, and so they taught them weapon and armor smithing, combat and tactics. Everything that the elves offered, the Valinor voraciously devoured, and in return, the Valinor became the closest allies of the elves. Campaigns were launched against the warlike orcish nations, and eventually their power was broken and the orcs scattered to the wilds. In those days, it became common for the Valinor and the elves to wed and the children they bore were considered exceptionally beautiful by both races. In time, however, a significant difference between the two races became readily apparent as the Valinor began to grow old and die. In those days, the Valinor were said to live far longer than humans today, living as long as two and a half to three centuries. Still, this paled in comparison to the elves, the oldest of whom could expect to see more than 1200 years before showing any signs of aging.
This discovery came as a shock to the elves, and eventually led to a great divide among the elven people. Many elves feared that intermingling with humans and blending their lineages would result in the end of the elven civilization, for elves bred so slowly and took so long to mature that eventually they would simply be overwhelmed by masses humans and what they began referring to as ‘half-elves’. They argued for an end to unions between humans and elves in order to preserve their noble blood. Other elves saw this intermingling as a way to strengthen the elven line, revitalizing the elven people and making them stronger. What started as a philosophical debate ultimately ended in civil war, with the result being that those who feared humans left their lands and sought out new homes where they could preserve their culture and be certain of the purity of their bloodlines. These became known as the High Elves. The majority, however, remained where they were and continued to be close allies of the Valinor. These are the ancestors of the Common Elves. In time, the Valinor grew into a mighty nation, and that nation became a great empire that spread out across the land. The savage humanoids and giants were hunted down and forced to flee to the most remote wilds and nearly uninhabitable wastes that humans cared little for. Tales tell that the elves and Valinor tamed mighty gryphons as mounts and then used them to fight against the dragons, who in those days were quite common. The songs and stories of Valoria, the empire of the noble Valinor, and the exploits of their greatest heroes, are still told today.
This was a time of great peace for humans and elves, for nothing could stand before their combined might. Friendly relations were established with the dwarves, who at last emerged from their mountain strongholds. More primitive human cultures were swallowed up by the ever-growing empire of the Valinor, and for centuries there existed a time of great Enlightenment. The Valinor grew skilled and powerful in the ways of magic, in some ways even surpassing their mentors the elves. Meanwhile, the Gods watched. Many were pleased that their followers were so successful, while others grew enraged at what transpired. Still, the Gods worked to spread their influence among the growing masses of humanity that spread across Faeregoth, each seeking to gain more followers by whatever means they could. Much to their dismay, however, the Gods found more and more of the Valinor turning away from the worship of the Divines in favor of magic. Through magic, the Valinor sought to solve their own problems and cure their own ills. They sought to divorce themselves from the need for Divine intervention, to be truly independent of the Gods, and to eventually become their equals. For many Valinor, this became a quest to overcome death itself and regain the immortality that the elves once possessed. It was this path that ultimately led to the downfall of the Valinor.
The Valinor, once noble and proud, fearless and inventive, began to focus its efforts on accomplishing this single goal. The empire at this point was led by a magocracy, and the driving force behind their every action became a fear of death. So dedicated were these Magisters to this single goal that their hearts became hardened and their minds twisted. Though they discovered the darkest secrets of necromancy, and learned much about undeath, they remained unable to significantly extend the natural lifespan of any human or elf. One by one, the Magisters accepted the only option that was available to them, for death was not an option, and so they wove the darkest magic imaginable and entered a state of undeath, becoming the horror known as a lich. Though they staved off death, they did so at great cost for eventually their minds became twisted and they gave way to insanity. The elves had grown increasingly suspicious of the Magisters of the Valinor, and eventually political maneuvering and deception could no longer conceal the truth. In horror at what they had learned, the elves attempted to expose the truth to the Valinor and demanded that the Magisters be destroyed, but sadly, only a few humans believed them. The result was a fracturing of the allegiance between the two races that eventually led to war.
Once again, Faeregoth was consumed by war. The elves were fierce in battle and tactically superior, but they were also vastly outnumbered for very few humans initially allied with them against the Valinor. So the elves fought a losing battle, and were driven from their homelands by the Valinor. In their rage, the Magisters sought to eradicate the elves completely, and used powerful magics to lay waste to their lands. With this act, they revealed their true nature, and at last many of the Valinor began to awaken to the truth of the situation and so the empire crumbled as more and more humans began to side with the elves. Still, the power of the Magisters was not to be dealt with lightly. The elves might still have fallen, had it not been for the dwarves, who had remained impartial until this point. Through the combined efforts of the elves, humans and dwarves, the Magisters were at last overthrown, though not without great loss of life and much destruction. The elven lands had been reduced to a burning wasteland, the empire of the Valinor lay shattered and in ruins, and the death toll for all involved was innumerable.
Mourning for what they had lost, some of the elves pushed to abandon human lands entirely and seek out a simpler life, away from cities and back to unity with Nature. These elves eventually came to be known as the Wild Elves, for they adopted a more primitive lifestyle, shunning the trappings of civilization that they believed had led to this great catastrophe. Those who remained sought to rebuild what they had lost, building a new homeland for themselves. The dwarves once again returned to their homes beneath the mountains while the humans began to rebuild among the ruins of mighty Valoria. New kingdoms arose and fell, and in time the memory of the Valinor faded to little more than myth and legend.
So, with the fall of the Valinor came the end of the Third Age, which scholars call the Age of Legend.
-From the Historical Writings of Oldeth Dawnsinger, Scribe of Eldoth