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War of the Scourge

The onslaught of the Scourge marked the end of the First Era and the beginning of the most calamitous period of Varian history. Great kingdoms and nations fell to the undying creatures and monstrosities spawned by Corruption. The continent’s humanoid populations of all races dwindled, forced to huddle into pockets of life just for survival; meanwhile, the cruel phenomenon threatened to wipe out all life on the continent. So dire had been this conflict that even the gods had no choice but interpose through their chosen and their conduits. The War of the Scourge warped Varia’s present, future, and even its past.

Causes and the Scourge

No records provide definitive answers as to where, when, or why exactly the Corruption surfaced in Varia. The phenomenon has been attributed to multiple factors: from extraplanar interference, to the wrath of the divines, and, most common of all, to the abuse and application of magic, However, due to how the Corruption inherently spread into geography, it swiftly devoured settlements, spawn new creatures of the Scourge, and then move on. Masses of the Corrupted arose from the victims of the Corruption and eventually transformed into the Scourge, seemingly consuming their surroundings with little rhyme or reason.   As the conflict escalated, and to the misfortune of the Varians, the once mindless hordes gradually gained a semblance of organization as intelligent and sapient Scourge appeared amidst their ranks. Many of them resembled humanoids while others maintained more monstrous forms, in that of demons. Moreover, they often acted as leaders and exercised tangible control over other, lesser Scourge. Legends speak that the most fearsome one of them, the Dread Knight, had been able to stand toe to toe with the mortal Avalon. Furthermore, even native Varians, often mages who practiced dark or forbidden magics, defected to the side of the Corruption and the Scourge, as most often exemplified by Zivier's betrayal. Regardless of these developments, the Scourge’s patterns of attack, and the magnitude by which they struck, remained unpredictable for the opposing side.  

The Era of Lost Time

The War of the Scourge has been the most common title for the appearance of the Scourge on the continent and the subsequent period of conflict. However, it has alternatively been referred to as the Era of Lost Time. For one reason, the collapse of the continent’s major settlements and political bodies led to loss, if not destruction, of ages worth of knowledge and information. The histories and achievements of the First Era fell along with much of the continent’s population. With years of progress lost and little base to fall back upon, the surviving denizens of Varia reverted to more comparatively primitive lifestyles that saw the rise of splintered settlements. Historians and speculative scholars estimate that the War of the Scourge may have set Varia back as a whole on practically all facets of life by thousands of years. The minimum estimation for this figure is at least longer than the combined duration of the Second and Third Eras, for records indicate that even the modern states of Varia have not reached the levels of advancement present during the First Era.   Furthermore, scholars have been unable to pin a definite duration for the War of the Scourge. Records and documentation from the period have exhibited persistent dating inconsistencies which have marred attempts to cross-reference and create a proper timeline of the conflict. In other cases, transcribed oral and written accounts from the era lack concrete dates. These factors have forced scholars to resort to a comparative timeline, focusing on the order of events as they occurred relative to one another. No concrete reason has been provided to explain this effective haze over perceptions of time during the War of the Scourge. Some studies posit that the destruction of the physical or tangible order structures of Varia seeped into the mental, or even metaphysical, conditioning of the populations, ruining their reception of the passage of time. Alternatively, certain scholars have labeled it as a magical phenomenon wherein the interaction of the Scourge and the Corruption with the inherent magics present in Varia created a sort of temporal haze which did not subside until the active period of Avalon and the Varian coalition.  

The Dark Age

Beyond the lost of records of the First Era, the War of the Scourge precipitated a halt to social and cultural innovations throughout most of Varia. For those capable of doing so, masses fled the continent once the true threat of the Scourge became apparent, though even then, they had to brave the wilds of the Feylands or cross the surrounding waters to uncertainty. However, remaining populations congregated into smaller settlements, which were generally nomadic in nature because the Scourge tended to behave and assault areas with no real distinct pattern. Survival became the focus of the common Varian, leaving little time and resources dedicated to relatively lesser priority tasks as the arts and, at worse, to worship. Even magic felt the grasp of the Corruption whose presence disrupted its flow throughout the continent. Training new mages and, in some cases, even just accessing became more and more of a challenge as the conflict progressed, making already established magical practitioners all the more coveted.   However, even amidst these setbacks, there would be a level of progress being achieved within the Varian Coalition, a collection of the forces from the various surviving factions of the continent. For example, combat and magical armaments and techniques continued to be developed by the mages of the coalition, which would later spill over into the reconstruction after the war.  

Avalon and Reversing the Tide of War

In Avon, one of the few nations to stand the tests of the Scourge, King Avalon called for and amassed a coalition of warriors, mages, and other able-bodied people willing to continue the fight for Varia against the Scourge. With Avon as the physical bastion of their hope and unity, the gathered coalition prepared to mount their counterattacks. With Avalon leading the charge, he and his forces began to fight back the Scourge plaguing the center of the continent. From the east, the kingdom of the Evergreens broke off its isolation and sent aid to bolster the Varian cause. The dwarves of the north, who had battled to maintain their mountain fortresses, then redirected their efforts to unite with the legions of the south, carving a way through the Kor Mountains in the process.   With these numbers amassed, the Varian Coalition, at last, came to form. The Avonian king rose to the task of providing the leadership needed to turn the once divided groups into an entity capable of thwarting the Scourge in its entirety. However, in this task, Avalon did not stand alone. At his side stood the Archmage Vyliar’faeien, the leaders of the dwarven clans and the Evergreens’ expeditionary forces, along with a handful of other extraordinary individuals; a collection that would evolve into The Guardians of Avalon.   Utilizing the aid of arcane and divine magics, the ground forces of the Varian Coalition and the Evergreens eventually succeeded in clearing out swathes of the continent. This achievement gave the humanoid alliance reprieve to recuperate and reinforce their selves. However, while the troops clashed with the Scourge on the battlefields, the Vyliar’faeien with an alliance of mages focused on finding a means stopping the Scourge and the spread of Corruption in Varia. Accounts claimed that the final major encounter of the War of the Scourge saw the clash of most of both sides’ forces. At one point, the Coalition had begun to fall behind in sheer numbers; though, it was these moments that birthed the most famous legend regarding Avalon. With the continent and multitudes of lives hanging in the balance, Avalon ascended into godhood, and in those first throes of divinity, he tipped the scales to clinch the victory for all of Varia. Furthermore, the Vyliar’faeien’s efforts proved successful to an extent, leading to the banishment of a vast portion of the phenomenon from the continent by the conclusion of the battle. As for the remaining instances of the Scourge, the Coalition then possessed the opportunity to more adequately eliminate them.  

Aftermath

The conclusion of the war ushered in the Second Era or the beginning of the Era of Restoration. Groups of people established new, civilized settlements with the aid of the Varian Coalition and the nations which had initially survived the conflict. The majority of the dwarven forces and those sent by the Evergreens returned to their original territories; however, the much smaller portion that did remain planted traces of both ancient dwarven and elvish cultures around the central and southern portions of the continent.   After Avalon’s ascension, veterans from the Varian Coalition also reformed themselves as the Order of Avalon and continued the hunt for remnants of the Scourge. The Archmage Vyliar’faeien also spearheaded the creation of the Arcane Society to avoid the abuses of magic and hopefully prevent the return of the Scourge, or phenomenon like it. A following surge of reverence for most of the deities as well as an admiration for Avalon’s Guardians inspired generations of religious orders and other specialized groups that marked an age of adventure in the still recovering continent.   With the convergence of Varia’s populations and that of the Evergreens, the modern Common language of Varia was refined, if not established, into the form that would see use into the Third Era. Furthermore, the War of the Scourge provided the basis and material for millennia’s worth of historical accounts, legends and tales, and various other literary works. Culture and intellectualism generally flourished in the centuries following the end of the War of the Scourge, as populations weary of war and conflict welcomed a unanimous peace between themselves.

Additional Reading

The War of the Scourge is a subject matter that has received, and will continue to receive, great focus from Varia’s intelligentsia. For further scholarly reading, the following works are recommended:
    The Varian Plague, An Analysis of the War of the Scourge, Volumes 1-3 Ira Hughes   Birth of a God: the Legends of Avalon and His Guardians Lovena the Loquacious   The Journal of the Unnamed Knight Unknown   Life and Culture in Post-Scourge Varia Morrison MacIntyre   Phenomenon or Punishment? The Truth of the Scourge Anonymous   The Treatise of Peace, translated Vyliar'faeien

Brightest

The darkest days of time
no breath with ease
the earth so sundered
stained with unheard pleas

The darkest days of time
Friends to foes turned
Undying, unfeeling
Each salvation spurned

The darkest days of time
One only survives
And dare but a glimpse
Wait for when it shall arrive

The darkest days of time,
Alas comes the light,
Its grip, renewing,
So, too, the will to fight

The brightest days of time,
Now, to live, to cope
Seen lands then ravaged
Returned by hope.
— —Unnamed


Heroes & Legends

While the War of the Scourge lasted for at least several generations, the most notable figures that have graced the annals of history from this period, if not all the continent’s existence, came to prominence during the latter portions of the conflict. Though numerous names of the great minds, warriors, and supporters of the Varian Coalition can be found through millennia of scholarship, none possesses the degree of awe, adoration, and popularity, barring the God King himself, as the group that became known as the Guardians of Avalon:

The most prominent of the Guardians remains a matter of debate, depending on who or where the question is asked. The influence of Avalon’s famed court archmage, the Vyliar’faeien, ripples well into the modern era through the Arcane Society. Yet, the same line of reasoning can be drawn with the First Pontiff Grandis and the Order of Avalon.

The states of the Dwarven Confederation holds Bergram Stormshield, the tempestuous Archcleric of Kraite, in perpetual and universal esteem.

Along the western and eastern edges of Varia, the tales of the Archdruid Olivar resonate with particular poignance. The Evergreens have often claimed to have been the native lands of both the Archdruid and the more enigmatic figure known as the Fey’s Hand, Galadried. However, the Lady of the Woods, Hana O’Laire has been more venerated in western Varia than anywhere else on the continent.

Generations of heroes train, fight, and seek out the same skill and fortunes known in the legends of the Grand Duelist Derogen and Kelliam the Enlightened Hand. Throughout all of Varia, the romanticized tales of the two hearts possess enduring popularity, highlighting the unlikely partnership of the Master Bard, Wirra Wispheart, with Jorrin Duskheart, the Shadow.

However, not all legends would be characters of good, as perhaps most infamously exemplified by the mage Zivier, the False One, and the traitorous member of King Avalon’s court.

Notably, while scrutiny has transformed other tales of old over the millennia, the legends of the Guardians have survived into modernity with limited alterations from their original interpretations.

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