In former days, the Dalriadan Empire covered the known world, from the eastern sea to the western steppes, and from the dunelands of the southern desert, across the Inner Sea and the mountains to the plains of the north before the Ice and the northern wastes. The legions of the Dalriada marched everywhere on their well-built roads, and their ships rid the Inner Sea of pirates.
Then came the Wasting. One in five perished from the plague, and many more perished as the laws and institutions of the Empire crumbled for lack of manpower. Moreover, after the Wasting came the Necropolitans, for any cemetery where those who died of the Wasting became unhallowed, and the dead began walking. All the priests of all the Empire’s many gods were not enough to send the walking dead back to their quiet graves; and the thinking dead planned dreadful evils upon the living. At the battle of Kenneburgh, the legions broke, and the warlords of the Necropolitans smashed the generals and their faithful troops. At their victory, there was fire in the West that blotted out the rising sun, and a noise like daemons shouting down the gates of heaven. Then there was darkness over the whole Earth for a year and a day.
Into the darkness came the armies from beyond the borders. Out of the frozen north came the Orcs, riding their black sailed hulls to raid the coastal settlements and towns, and blood-eagle those who fought them. From the dunes of the south came the Kobolds, the dragon-dogs who ate their enemies. From the western steppes came the goblins on their wolves, harrying the last legionaries to their doom. The dragons settled upon the earth again, and took up the temples of the honored gods as their treasuries and dens; the giants, unfettered at long last, leveled cities for their steadings.
The Elves retreated within their ancient fastnesses, the forests Arden and Illyria. The Eladrin, never fond of the human lands, closed the borders of their princedoms of Y’s and Avalynn. The Dwarves shuttered the portals of their realms at Elveta, Andorr, Genev, Appenn, and Laurum. The Tielff forgot for a time their vows to the Light, so darkness descended upon them and they Changed. The halflings took to the sea in ships, and fled into the marshes to hide. Only the Dragonborn remembered their honor, and stayed to defend the humans of Dalriada, who brought the whole known world under one law and one ruler. And so they perished, all but a few — but the Blossom of the Dalriada survived, and the Dragonborn escorted this only daughter of the Emperor to the island of Karscia, sole royal survivor of the devastation.
Now, this island and the tiny town of Harles on the mainland shore are all that remains of the once-mighty human empire. One hundred thirty-seven years have passed since the realm’s enemies destroyed and sacked the capital, and the Blossom has flowered five times since then: the Child-Empress Artema is now nine, and in need of defenders, protectors and champions. All around the Inner Sea, the human provinces have become a snarling anarchy of monsters and violence, but there is yet some hope that the Empire’s former glory may not be lost forever.
Standing in many places throughout the empire are the Beacons of Kord and Pelor, magical lamps created by the servants of the gods to be so bright as to blind the wicked, but give no light to the just. When the Wasting fell upon the Dalriadans, the lamps were extinguished, but they might be lit again. If it should be so, the provinces might be reclaimed again, and the light that was the Empire restored.