Anu, last of the Ancients, stood upon the shores of the Huline Jungle and watched the Great City sink beneath the waves. The end came swiftly. A roar, a sigh, and it was gone. Belial was dead. The Gods were no more. He was alone.
None of his brethren wanted to wait and see if Belial's threats of resurrection would come to pass, but Anu harbored no doubts that the ancient evil would fester and come forth again. He would be there to provide guidance when the time came.
"I will wait in a new place", he murmured.
Jakel's entire existence was bound to serving and protecting the Draracle's Chambers. Should the great structure collapse, so would Jakel.
Should Jakel ever collapse, so would the great structure.
Over the centuries, word spread among the mortals about a strange and powerful being who possessed the gift of prophecy. The first visitors timidly approached Anu, seeking his Advice, and calling him "the Dragon Oracle".
Overseeing the parade, and making sure each supplicant brought a suitable gift, was Anu's faithful magical servant, Jakel.
The written records were burned, pictographs were obliterated, and many of the royal court were executed. Finally, the dracoid capital was undermined and made to sink to the bottom of the Bane River.
Eventually, those who remained behind mutated into a race of multi-tailed lizard beasts known as the Ssar.
The Dracoid nation collapsed and its society completely disintegrated. They scattered and fled to the other continents, becoming nothing more than hermits, menial laborers, and wanderers, ashamed and embarrassed of their heritage.
Despite the mass exodus, the dracoid initially managed to retain their customs and traditions. But over the years, the flame began to die out; only a few retained any memories of their mighty ancestors.
But there were others who kept their blue-blood lineage a secret, fearful of reprisals.
Many farmers, merchants, and even adventurers made their way here to settle the land. In time, the ancient caravan trading route looped its way north to take advantage of this bustling settlement.
Great profits were made buying and selling the dried fish and produce from the region. So it wasn't surprising that the other neighboring kingdoms started to become envious.
The Kingdom of Memlar, seeking ever to expand their influence, attempted to tax the people. As part of their plan, they sent two tax-collectors disguised as fisherfolk.
They were discovered and beaten to death with dried fish by the enraged mob. Memlar reacted quickly and dispatched its soldiers to burn the settlement and kill the settlers. Word of the mission spread like wildfire.
The people rallied around a popular local farmer named Jacob Gladoch. He established a defensive base around a large stone promontory, which was later called "Glad's Stone". The Memlarians were defeated, and Jacob became Gladstone's first leader.
The foundations of Gladstone Keep were laid at the base of the stone promontory. During its early history, the emerging kingdom was constantly threatened by the forces of Memlar, Corlerre, and Farallon.
Throughout the centuries, Gladstone grew larger and more prosperous. Power passed from Gladoch's descendants to the Couchon family, then to the Chevres family, and finally to the House of LeGre, where Richard serves as king.
Sixteen years ago, the Dark Army was pressing hard upon the distant borders of Cimmeria. Richard sent his brother, Eric, to command the forces of the White Army and beat back the invaders. The battle was long and hard.
Many good men lost their lives at the hands of the Orcs. Eric believed his situation to be hopeless, and bargained with the enemy for the safety of his men.
As the negotiations dragged on, Eric preformed an act of kindness for a local half dracoid, half human dancing girl named Vernilla. Amid the darkness of war, their relationship blossomed. And so it was that Copper LeGre was born.
The White Army finally freed itself from battle, Eric LeGre returned to Gladstone Keep leaving Copper to be raised by his mother in Cimmeria. Upon her death, Copper decided it was time to learn more about his Gladstone heritage.
Although Eric accepted him upon his arrival, others did not. His stepmother, Carmen Chevres LeGre, her two sons, and the Royal Councilor, Jeron Couchon, all regarded him as a potential rival for the throne of Gladstone.
It also didn't help that he was part dracoid...
Immortal History: The Draracle and Jakel
Anu was standing by himself on the shores of the Huline Jungle when the great city finally submerged. The closing of the City of Ancients had come in a rush. He heard a large splash and then it was gone, and he was alone. To be sure, there were other creatures crawling about, but there were no others of Anu's kind - no other Ancients, no other gods, only him.
"It will be a long wait," he told himself as he began formulating the transportation spell he would ride off this island continent. He was going somewhere, of that he was sure. He wasn't going to camp in the smoldering ruins of the two civilizations destroyed by his enemy Belial's treachery. "I will wait in a new place;' he murmured.
None of the gods would have chosen this assignment deliberately. Nobody wanted to wait for Belial, but inasmuch as it was Anu who had soiled his hands and actually killed the condemned ancient Belial, it was now he who would have to wait. He would wait, and he would be ready if Belial's threats of resurrection should come to pass.
Harboring no doubt in his mind, Anu knew that the malevolence that was the Ancient evil god Belial would fester forth again. And though he had foresworn personal participation in the coming event, he knew he would have to be there to give the inevitable mortal hero his own cryptic guidance; guidance that danced finely on the thin line of propriety.
It was going to be a long wait. So, after a brief tour of the Lands, Anu selected some limestone caverns on a continent far to the north of the cursed Huline-Dracoid jungle. "I will wait here;' he said, as he began to build himself a new home.
Building a new home for a personage as mighty as Anu was not a casual process. First, the workers, Skeletal Guardians, recruited from the local nether realms, had to be housed, organized, and trained for both construction and domestic tasks. What may have seemed bizarre helpmates were actually quite satisfactory for Anu. He was on the part of his servants, and the Skeletal Guardians were in no danger of manifesting either chitchat or revolution.
Along with the extensive excavations and exotic material imported, the new habitat also boasted something this part of the universe had never seen before: an architectural familiar. Created as part and parcel of the structure of Anu's new home, Jakel, as he came to be known, served as major domo for the mighty god's household.
From the first moment, Jakel's duties included the supervision of the entire staff. He managed the daily affairs of the servants, prepared what few menus there were, adjusted the cleaning schedules, and even arranged a bit of infrequent entertainment for the occasional mortal visitor Anu allowed to discover his subterranean chambers.
In the early years though, the construction occupied most of the energies of the household, and Jakel bent to his task eagerly. He built great soaring chambers, twisting labyrinthine passages, museums, opulent receiving rooms, and all the other architectural accoutrements one can imagine appropriate for a personage as powerful as Anu, last of the Ancient Gods.
Never in the history of the mortals had such a wondrous construct appeared, and Jakel was part of it all, and not just in directing the day to day activities. Each added brick and each additional bucket of mortar contributed to a communal architectural consciousness of which Jakel formed the center. Should the great structure ever collapse, so would Jakel.
Should Jakel collapse, the mighty structure would likewise fall.
As the mortal centuries rolled by, word of the existence of a powerful oracle in the caves spread among the innocent mortals, and it was not long before the first timid humans dared approach the oracle specifically to ask for advice. It was in these early years that Anu acquired his mortal name as "The Draracle", a not so obscure reference to the fact that he was an oracle, and he looked like a dragon. Forever after then, the wonders of the Draracle were talked of among mortals. Humans, Orcs, Thomgogs, Ghorka and many other races streamed to his chambers.
Some historians even suggest that the founding of the kingdom of Gladstone itself be encouraged to occur where it did by virtue of the close proximity of the all-knowing god.
Jakel oversaw the entire parade, made sure that each and every supplicant provided the Draracle with an appropriate gift, and otherwise enforced the required protocols for mortals wishing to consult with the cryptic god. And as important as he was during his tenure, equally important was the part he would play in the final act of this drama.
As told in the story Guardians of Destiny, Belial did finally muster the power to have him resurrected. As expected, a mortal champion, Luther, son of Scotia, the psychotic sorceress of the Dark Army, needed critical guidance from the Draracle to complete his vanquishment of the Ancient Evil God.
And now, now that Belial no longer threatens, Anu has fulfilled his destiny here on this mortal plane. As we approach our current situation, Anu has made preparations to at last leave this realm and join his compatriots. The continuing strife in our world is, of course, no dissuading factor in Anu's decision.
The arrangements have proceeded, and soon the wondrous chambers will disappear. As his final act, the faithful familiar Jakel is to wait until Anu steps out of the caves, and then place the Seal on the Shining Path. The Chambers, the Draracle, and Jakel will then cease to be anything more than memories and legends in these lands.
Mortal History: The Dracoids
Many branches of the river of History along the surface, disappear underground for awhile, and then come back up to the surface again later.
In a deathbed change of heart, the last Emperor of the Dracoid nation repudiated his own involvement with the evil god Belial, and took extreme measures to erase all record of the Dracoid nation's guilt. The written records were burned, the pictographs were obliterated, and scores of governmental employees (and even a few Grand Ministers) were executed. Finally the great capital city was undermined, causing it to sink under the Bane River.
When the Dracoid nation collapsed, the few who remained behind in the submerged remnants began to mutate, eventually becoming the race known as the Ssar, the multi-tailed lizard beasts.
Most of the Dracoid citizens fled to other continents however, and became wanderers, hermits, and menial laborers. As a scattered group, they behaved as if they were embarrassed to be Dracoid. The disintegration of Dracoid society was so complete that it was many mortal centuries before anything resembling a Dracoid political unit appeared again.
When a new Dracoid nation did at last form, it was along strict egalitarian lines, and democratic notions dominated all thought. Although none in polite circles would have had the bad taste to mention the debacle of the last Dracoid emperor, none could forget it, and the new community occupied lands far away from the dreaded Southern Continent.
Throughout this period, those families, which had comprised the Dracoid aristocracy, kept their blue-blood ancestry a careful secret, fearful of reprisals. (The extremes to which these families went to disguise their once elevated status might have seemed obvious if anyone had been paying attention.) The lowest members of the new Dracoid society; the dung haulers, the rag pickers, the tavern dancing girls; these were the hidden Dracoid aristocracy of the modern era.
At first, after the collapse, the gentle Dracoid managed to keep many of their habits and routines, in spite of their wide dispersion and other seemingly insurmountable difficulties. Two hundred years after the collapse, there were still occasional balls for young Dracoid socialites, even though they were held in secret places and their gowns were fashioned from the tattered remnants of their great-great-grandmother's trousseaus.
But gradually, the flame began to die out. Secret gatherings became a thing of the past, remaining valuables were sold to foreign collectors, and only a very few individuals survived who had memories of having ancestors who had once belonged to the ruling class of a mighty nation.
These once haughty families, from among whom the emperors of the Dracoid people had been selected for all known time, dwindled to a handful despite intermarriage with humans. Stuck in their habits, and numbed by centuries of self-flagellation, they did not notice when no purebred Dracoid children at all were born to their remaining group for twenty years. Among them all, only one young half-breed female was still fertile.
Gladstone History: The Throne and The Artifacts
The kingdom of Gladstone began life as a remote fishing camp on the banks of Lake Dread. Schools of freshwater cod, drawn by their annual breeding instinct to the mouths of the rivers feeding into the lake, were harvested with huge seine nets pulled ashore by teams of donkeys and oxen.
The business of preparing and selling dried cod proved quite profitable. Farmers, merchants and other adventurers traveled for many miles to gather together at the lake each fall. Gradually, several families began arriving at the lake a few weeks earlier, and then others stayed on for months after the harvest, until, after a few decades, there was a year round settlement established.
Soon other families found reasons to locate their homesteads near the lake. The soil was good and deep in the neighboring valleys, the climate was regular, and farmers moved into the area by the hundreds. After a few more generations even the ancient caravan route of the traders began to loop north a bit to include passage through this thriving new area. Great profits were made buying and selling the dried fish and other produce of the region.
The kingdom of Memlar, five days ride to the south, was not ignorant of the activities at the lake, and it was not long before an official attempt was made to tax the transactions involving dried fish from Lake Dread. It is not surprising that many of the most active and vocal fish harvesters were opposed to this taxation, and pointing out that the territory around the lake did not technically belong to any particular country, and certainly not Memlar, they therefore asserted that Memlar had no right to impose taxes on commerce in this area.
Tensions came to a head when two Melmarian tax collectors (Disguised as farmers in order to spy on the fishing activities) were exposed and subsequently killed by an enraged mob. (Actually, they were beaten to death with stiff dried cods used as clubs.) Response from Memlar was quick, and a company of Memlarian mounted soldiers began the long journey northward to the lake with instructions to disperse the settlers and burn the encampment to the ground.
Word of their mission was discovered however, and hundreds of the lake area patriots rallied around a local farmer named Jakob Gladoch. The stone promontory near his camp served as the defensive stronghold from which the besieging Memlarian forces eventually were repelled. The charismatic Jacob was acclaimed leader of the new independent nation, and several generations later his descendants were using the name King to describe themselves.
The structure of Gladstone Keep began to grow on and around the stone promontory, and the nation eventually grew strong enough to survive the drastic declination of the cod fisheries and inevitable disappearance of any commercial fishing activities on the lake.
Even during this early history of Gladstone, frequent battles with the Dark Army threatened national security. Memlar, Corlerre, Farallon, and most of the neighboring countries fought occasionally against organized creatures from the other side, but the offspring of Jakob seemed to attract particular enmity from these troops. The name Gladstone soon became synonymous with the struggle against the forces of Evil.
During this time there lived Varsno, a great wizard from the southern continent, possessor of the last remaining Ancient Magic artifact, the powerful Nether Mask. The Ancient gods to mimic mortal experiences originally used this device. Varsno realized that the magic inside was too potentially dangerous for mortal use, and therefore buried the Mask twelve thousand feet deep in the mudflats surrounding the Western Islands.
To further ensure that the Mask could never be used for evil purposes, he then traveled to Gladstone, and gave to Larkin Gladoch, the fifth King of Gladstone, the powerful mortal magical items known as the truth, which together formed the only known mortal antidote effective against the Nether Mask. (The Truth has two pieces: the Ruby of Truth, and the Shard.)
Entrusted with the care of these devices, the Gladstonian monarchs were cautioned to hold the artifacts ready should they be needed in the unlikely case that someone ever unearthed the Mask. (Which, of course, the evil sorceress Scotia did, as told in The Throne of Chaos.)
Seventeen Gladochs into their dynasty, the seed of the family withered and no further heirs sprung from this line. The next Gladstonian monarch, elected from among the councilors, was Hieronymus Couchon, an empty-headed sot about whom the kindest thing that can be said is that he was in the right place at the right time. He was in turn succeeded by Jongleur Chevres, a reformed pickpocket, who had the enormous good fortune of being selected as the next king during a three day mead binge in the Keep.
The next three hundred years saw an unusual co-operative dynasty shared between descendants of the two houses, as all the Gladstonian rulers of this period came from either one or the other of the two families.
About 100 years ago the current King Richard's great grandfather Blaise, who had been the Royal Gamekeeper, took control of Gladstone away from the three insane Chevres brothers who were co-ruling the country at that time. Blaise unified the country under his own rule, and founded the LeGre dynasty, which has ruled Gladstone to this day.
Not much more than a decade ago, in a distant campaign near the new Dracoid nation, the Dark Army was again hard upon the forces of Eric LeGre, brother to King Richard. Eric believed his situation hopeless, and was in the process of bargaining for the safety of his men.
While the negotiations dragged on, he performed a kindness for a local half Dracoid dancer named Vernilla. Their relationship blossomed in that strange soil, and the boy named Copper was the result of this wartime alliance. Left behind when the White Army finally freed itself, he was raised by his mother.
As this latest story in the Lands of Lore begins, Copper's mother has passed away, and he has now traveled to Gladstone to meet the other half of his heritage. Dynastical tensions still simmer near Lake Dread though, and not everyone in Gladstone will be pleased to meet this youngest LeGre. In particular, neither his stepmother, whose maiden name was Carmen Chevres, nor the current Royal Councilor, Jeron Couchon, can be expected to open their arms in welcome.