History of Bannor
| 1200 years ago the world was a dark place. The rulers of the different kingdoms were all selfish and corrupt. They lived in opulent palaces of rotten decadence, where they spent their time plotting and manipulating to increase their own power. The people suffered under heavy taxes and unjust laws, but could do nothing to defend themselves from their greedy overlords.
Bannor, the king of the dwarves, was a paladin devoted to the wellbeing of the people rather than any one god. One day he looked over the world from his mountaintop and saw the evil growing within the hearts of mortals, and decided to stop it. He began conquering the other kingdoms, and after years of war he had forged an empire across the land. He was a harsh but fair ruler, and after the bloodshed was ended he dedicated himself to creating the unified and peaceful world of his dreams. Ashamed of the state of the world before he conquered it, Emperor Bannor decreed that the dark past was no more, and that people could look forward to a bright future. He collected and destroyed all recorded history dated before his rise to power and instituted the Imperial Calendar.
The people flourished during his reign, but the booming prosperity didn’t last long. The son had none of the righteous fervor of the father, and little interest in his imperial responsibilities. After more than two centuries the empire gradually fell apart, and once again divided into separate kingdoms.
Bannor entered a period of restful peace. Although separate, the kingdoms had worked in unison so long under the venerable rule of the emperor that it was easy for them to continue to do so. Cities grew, trade expanded, farming and culture advanced, and the people were happy. Few cities maintained standing armies, and the ones that did were lax in their vigilance. Philosophy and the arts became the prominent concerns of the educated citizens. Competitions were held across the land in art, discourse, performance, and research. Everyone was convinced they had evolved into a greater, peaceful society.
333 Imperial (about 900 years ago) the people paid for their naivete. Six evil beings emerged and violently took control of Bannor, carving it into six kingdoms. Named the Akarot, the kingdoms were ruled through fear and coercion. The Akarot Kings held dominion over all living creatures in their lands, and enforced their cruel edicts with powerful magic. But even their far-reaching power didn’t satisfy. They knew that everything gained would mean nothing once they died. The Akarot Kings became obsessed with living forever. Their magical experiments extended their lives, allowing them to rule for centuries, but true immortality eluded them. Eventually they ceased to pay any attention to their kingdoms. Their harsh laws went unenforced and chaos reigned free while they spent every waking hour in their laboratories. After four centuries of tyranny they faded from the world, and their kingdoms crumbled.
The people of Bannor barely had time to catch their breath before they were once again beset upon by darkness. Lying in the wake of the Akarot’s brutality were millions of corpses, both innocent and guilty. The survivors were weary, and cared little for the peaceful rest of their slain. The dead began to rise from their shallow graves and turn on the living. The servants of Vecna, god of undeath, had marshaled their strength in the waning years of the Akarot, and were ready to strike when the opportunity arose.
Despite their preparation, those who truly worshiped Vecna were few in number, and had a small scope of power. Undead became a menace in the world, but a relatively minor one in the view of history. Sometimes a cult dedicated to Vecna would orchestrate a more substantial threat, but likely as not this resulted in inspired adventurers riding forth and obliterating them. Thus, despite the machinations of his devotees, Vecna had little influence in the world and civilization made a steady, if slow, comeback.
909 Imperial (about 300 years ago) Vecna’s devotees made a final thrust for power. Their all-or-nothing offensive came as a surprise to the people of Bannor, who had grown used to their largely ineffectual and increasingly sporadic attacks. Three hordes began to advance simultaneously — one each from the east, south, and north. They crept over the land like an incoming tide. Their goal was not destruction or slaughter, but conquest. They occupied cities as they went in an attempt to place the living under the rule of the undead. Fortunately this forced them to move slowly while they consolidated their forces.
Two champions arose to protect the living. One wreathed in shadow, the other robed in virtue, they cut through the undead forces with deadly grace and determined violence. But two men can’t hold back an ocean. In order to stem the tide they had to go to the source. The champions traveled to the Astral Sea in search of Vecna, in order to remove his power from cosmos. They succeeded; Vecna disappeared, and without his power on the mortal world his followers could not maintain their undead armies. The threat abated, and for the first time in almost a millennium things were normal for the people of Bannor. It wasn’t bliss — it wasn’t even peace — but mortals were able to live and die without interference.
Now the year is 1234 Imperial, and the mortal world is facing its darkest trial yet. The earth has been torn asunder, its people have been killed or enslaved, and even the sun has been blotted out from the sky. Vecna has returned and walks on the world. The champions are gone, fled, or dead, and hope has run out. Nothing stands between the mortal races and their doom.