Sanction of the Athar
The Seal was an arcane barrier erected on Koar which encompassed the entire prime material plane on which the world of Koar resides. Created at the close of The Imperial Epoch by the Empire of Sul’Amon, the Seal acted as a sort of one way door, allowing anything to enter the plane, but nothing to leave. It was finally destroyed by a group of adventurers 23 years ago, giving rise to The Modern Era and the current state of affairs on Koar.
In the final decades of the Empire of Sul’Amon, Emperor Amon’hef the Pious had seen the Hall of Magisters – a body of arcane scholars and spell casters – grow increasingly influential within the Empire. Believing they planned a subtle take over of the Empire itself, Amon’hef sought to consolidate power in the nation into the hands of the Church of the Pantheon, under his personal control.
To accomplish this, he commissioned the creation of what he called The Planar Auspices by the wizards of the Hall of Magisters itself. Ostensibly, the Auspices were to be artifacts that would allow absolute control over connections to the Planes – easing the creation of portals for trade, and creating a perfect defense against any outside invader – but what Amon’hef had carefully concealed in their design was a far more dangerous fact. When completed, The Planar Auspices would channel the arcane energies engulfing the world into the void between planes, rendering arcane spell casting all but impossible.
The Hall of Magisters accepted Amon’hef’s commission, and might never have been the wiser, but for the appearance of a strange notation scrawled on one of the pages of the design. In a crude, foreign hand, the note read simply, “Where does power come from? Where does it go?” In time, this riddle of an annotation lead the Hall to realize the sinister motive behind their commission, and formulate a plan to counter the Emperor’s scheme with one of their own.
The mages of the Hall subtly altered the design of the Auspices, warping their effects to create what they called the Mirror of Souls. Built around the same principles as the original devices, the Mirror of Souls would be a planar barrier which, rather than drawing arcane power into the void, would reflect away any divine energy directed at Koar. It would cancel divine magic in much the same was the original was meant to disable the arcane.
As they plotted to betray the gods themselves, the Hall took drastic precautions to secure their plans. Distributing work, and trusting the most telling elements of their plan only to those who had proven themselves utterly devoid of faith, they kept their plot a secret from beings of greater power than they could begin to imagine. In the end, their precautions were entirely effective, but for a single, simple prayer that would bring their plans crashing down, and draw a cataclysmic end to the empire and its ages long dominion.
As he began the incantation that would complete the Planar Auspices, and through them create the Mirror of Souls, the High Artificer of the Hall of Magisters uttered the phrase that would bring ruin to an age: “Gods, forgive me.” As the words left his lips, the gods saw the truth that had been hidden, and in that moment they acted.
There was little warning. A gathering of divine energy. A strange light in the sky. A halo of energy gathered about objects of faith. In the blink of an eye the gods smote the world of Koar, and the Empire that dominated it, in a desperate attempt to stop the heretical act they had glimpsed through a thoughtless prayer. Cities were ruined, mountains leveled, and the entire heartland of the Empire crushed down and hollowed out in mere moments. Sources of arcane power – artifacts, relics, and spell casters alike – were dislodged from reality and scattered across the planes themselves, in an effort to disrupt the final ritual.
All the gods’ efforts did not stop the terrible act of creation, for the heart of the device escaped their desperate purge, but they were not entirely in vane. As the fires of the gods ravaged Koar, the prayers of their faithful were suddenly silenced. The ritual was complete, and the world was sealed. But the power they sent against the world was not reflected as had been expected. It entered, flowing along lines of power where the many elements of the Auspices – now scattered across a thousand worlds – fed the power of those worlds back into the device to which they were all bound, like roots feeding water to a tree.
The New Gods
Along the flows of power, the gods sent avatars, proxies, and servants, but none returned. In point of fact, they were trapped within a sealed world, but from the outside the Seal even the gods could not know it. To them it was an sync. A trap built to consume their power. And so they turned their backs on it, unwilling to pour more of their precious energies into the darkness, from which they might never return. Those they had sent were left, stranded, to make due with what ever power they had, cut off from the source.
Where they could, these fragments of divinity serviced the needs of their faithful. Avatars trapped within the seal answered prayers with power, hoping that enough of the faithful remained here to replenish their energies. In the wake of the destruction the gods had wrought, millions cried out in prayer, but for every one prayer that found a recipient on Koar, ten were to gods who could not hear them. The energy of their faith gathered and swirled, trapped within the confines of the plane like everything else.
Proxies and missionaries traveled the shattered world, spreading the faith to support those avatars that remained, and some faiths spread, while others died. Those avatars who’s faiths spread thrived, drawing on the prayers of a world and becoming godlings unto themselves, while the avatars of fallen faiths slipped into primordial slumber, utterly spent. Over time, the survivors adapted to their new world, tapping into the seething morass of unheard prayers. Some remained true to their roots and names of old, but others changed, crafting new faiths and new names for themselves, distinct from the deities that had spawned them.
Thus, the gods of Koar were born, over the course of eight thousand years under the Seal. Some emerged quickly – those who remained true to their origins mostly, transparently taking over the responsibilities incumbent upon their names: Mistra, Thor, Shar, and so on – while others appeared only as the need arose. Mortals ascended, sorcerer kings who built great cults around themselves, such as Paraxis and Antus, or the subjects of prophesies and portents, such as Theundine. Forgotten powers fell and faded, while new powers emerged.
Millions died in the great cataclysm that ended the Imperial Epoch, and millions more perished over the intervening millennia, but their spirits were sealed to Koar in death every bit as much as their prayers had been in life. At the doors of death – the entrance to the path once walked by the ghosts on their way to the gods’ judgment – the dead gathered in their teaming masses, and waited. Impatient and restless, their presence slowly encroached upon the world of the living.
Over centuries, the city of Parethos in the Compact of Paet, resting over the gateway’s location in the material world, was abandoned entirely by the living, and came to be known as the City of Specters. Over the millennia that followed, the dead amassed, and the whole of the Compact itself was abandoned, leaving behind a land of empty cities and untraveled roads where no living soul would dare set foot. An land of the dead in the realm of the living.
It would not be until the closing century of this era – since called The Age of the Dead – that these fallen souls would find peace. One hundred twenty years before the fall of the Seal, nearly eight thousand years since the end of the Imperial Epoch, Theundine, the God of Lost Souls ascended from mortality on the prayers of the fallen. Since his ascension, he and he alone has judged the petitioner spirits of the fallen, offering reincarnation or afterlife, both on the mortal plane, as each soul warrants.
The Fall of the Seal
Prophets had foretold the fall of the Seal practically since its creation. In fact, fragmentary records from the Imperial Epoch suggest that its fall may have been prophesied before it was ever even conceived of. The most famous such foretelling, called the Prophecy of the Harbingers, origenated in the city-states of Eran Pazan some 1200 years ago, and provided a list of key locations and dates. Portents events which would signal that the end was near. What it was less than clear on however was exactly what this end would entail.
Many saw these prophesies as foretelling the end of the world, and as the milestone events began to transpire in no uncertain terms – the ascension of Theundine, and the death of the god Paraxis, along with many less epic happenings – they fought blindly against the coming change. Ultimately however, prophecy could not be averted, and twenty three years ago the seal feel, all but unnoticed except for a single, strangely long night filled with shifting, dancing stars.
In the end, a group of adventurers succeeded where the gods themselves had failed. Using a device called the Dimensional Breaching Charge, they destroyed the ancient mechanism that focused and maintained the Seal, and sent the whole of Koar slipping headlong back into the flow of the multiverse. Physically, the transition went smoothly, but they could have no idea the difficulties their adopted home world would face as a result.
Within days it was clear what had transpired. A summoned Djinn was the first to know. Where as all those before him had found themselves unable to return to the planes, as his summoner threatened would be the case, he was able to travel home without difficulty. From there, and from other similar events, the news spread quickly, and the world changed practically over night.
With their access to the planes restored, those who had been recently trapped – and those so ancient as to remember a time before the Seal – renewed their contacts. Many returned from whence they’d come, particularly among the ranks of the angels, demons, and devils, seeking to reclaim their former places. Similarly, those avatars who had sustained faith in the powers for thousands of years were reunited with their parent divinities and made whole.
Many chose not to go forth however, most notably those avatars-come-godlings who had been born under the Seal to distinct identities and purposes. In the new, open multiverse, Theundine, Antus, and other divinities of the sealed world consolidated their power. They secured their claim to the faithful of Koar in no uncertain terms, and in so doing, they set Koar apart from any other prime in the planes, as a world where mortals and gods live side by side.