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Chapter I: The Awakening of the Gods

In the beginning there was only a big, gaping void. It was everywhere and nowhere.
~
In this emptiness two powerful entities appeared who were eventually known as the elder gods: Fardos the Creator and Uman Zathroth who combined in himself two unequal halves. One of these halves was Uman the Wise, a benign god who was gifted with divine intellect, while Zathroth the Destroyer was the other, darker half. These were the two halves of one single enigmatical entity, and even though either of them was perfectly capable of acting on his own just as if he had been fully independent, independent they were not. They were bound together by an eternal bond that could not be broken, and their destiny was one. Nobody knows where the elder gods came from, or whether they had always existed and eventually awoke from the slumber of infinity. But somewhere along the way they decided to create a universe. Surely Fardos was the initiator, for he was driven by the need to create and give life. He was overflowing with creative power and impatient to release it, so he stepped into existence and began to unleash his powers. However, none of his attempts to create were successful. All of his creations were swallowed by the void before they were completed, and none survived. Uman Zathroth regarded Fardos's undertakings thoughtfully. Uman was sagacious and held awesome magical powers. Most importantly, however, he was driven by an insatiable hunger for knowledge and enlightenment. In his essence he resembled Fardos, but where Fardos worked openly and logically, Uman's domain was the realm of mystery. Still, he shared Fardos's interest in creation, whereas his dark half Zathroth was essentially corruptive. Zathroth was a vain god who was painfully aware that his own creative powers were poor. Because of this he looked at Fardos's work of creation with jealousy, and from the very beginning he was determined to prevent or at least corrupt it in any way he could. Fardos, who did not suspect this, asked him for assistance because he had accepted the fact that he could not achieve creation on his own, but of course Zathroth denied. Uman, however, agreed to help. And from that he and Fardos worked together on the great project that was creation. Unfortunately, their combined efforts were hardly more successful. Just like before, everything Fardos and Uman created was swallowed by the void as soon as it came into existence, and the two gods sadly saw their creation run through their fingers like water through a sieve. On the other hand, Zathroth, who had been watching their efforts with suspicion, rejoiced. He ridiculed their efforts. However, his glee changed into surprise and anger when he found that something strange happened, something which perhaps Uman and Fardos did not expect themselves. To this day, nobody knows precisely what it was that caused it. Perhaps the power that had been spent lured another entity out of the void, or it might be that it simply awoke another divine entity from its slumber. Some even claim that in some mysterious way the power that had been spent by Uman and Fardos actually created a new entity. Whatever the truth may be, a new goddess stepped out of the void like a new-born mermaid from her shell. The amazed elder gods watched her divine beauty in awed admiration, for everything in her was perfect harmony. They agreed to call her Tibiasula. Zathroth, however, stood by and fumed with silent hate. But cunning as he was, he hid his resentment well and feigned to share the joy of the other elder gods.




Chapter II: The Great Creation



In his divine wisdom Uman realised at once that Tibiasula could be a powerful ally in the project of creation.

Soon he asked her to join forces with Fardos and himself to work on the gargantuan task that lay before them. Tibiasula, who was also intrigued by the idea of creation, was easily won over. And so it came to pass that there were three creators where previously there had only been two, and together they set to work with renewed vigour. This time, however, they chose a different approach. Uman, whose very nature destined him to reveal secrets and to gain insights, had realised that something was missing, a fixed point, a firm fundament on which creation could be built. Without it, there would be no way to focus the raw creative forces, and all the gods' efforts would be in vain. And thus Uman invented time! He knew that if the void was set in motion and subjected to the eternal flux of time it would be much easier to focus their divine powers. But first, time had to be created. To this end, all the gods combined their powers. Even Zathroth, Uman's evil half who openly disdained creation, was fascinated by the idea of time, and he agreed to aid the other elder gods in their effort. His offer was gladly accepted, for the other gods did not know then what he had clearly seen from the start: That time held a seed of destruction. He understood that a world that was subject to the ceaseless passing of time would be doomed to perish slowly, and this was why he gladly accepted to help in its creation. And so it came to pass that for once all the elder gods worked together and cast their combined powers into the void. And when at last a huge spiral took shape in the void, the crystal column of time that was to be the fundament of the whole creation, the gods rejoiced. Zathroth, however, rejoiced even more than he dared to show because he knew that now all creation would be flawed in a way that could never be undone. Zathroth had opposed the idea of creation all along, and he had secretly sworn to thwart the other gods' plans by any means necessary. To this end he had assisted them in the creation of time, and this was the reason he finally decided to kill Tibiasula. He had held a grudge against the goddess ever since she was created because he loathed to share his divine status with yet another deity. However, his dislike turned into deadly hate when he saw that Tibiasula successfully filled the gap which he, Zathroth, had left by refusing to participate in creation. Finally, he made up his mind to do the unthinkable. He secretly created a dagger of great power into which he bundled all his hate and his destructive power, a weapon that was fit to kill a god. Then he lay waiting, biding his time for the perfect moment. And sure enough that moment came. One fateful day, when the other gods had all but exhausted their powers to finish the mighty column of time Zathroth used the opportunity and took Tibiasula aside. Innocent and perfectly unaware of her fellow god's malicious intentions, Tibiasula was easy prey. Zathroth thrust the blade into her heart with all the strength he could muster. Mortally wounded the goddess sank to the ground, and out of her fading body bled the elements of fire, water, earth and air - the components of her divine being that had been torn out of their former harmony by Zathroth's disgraceful treachery. When they learnt about the heinous deed Uman and Fardos were shocked. They tried to hold on to the dying Tibiasula, hoping to keep her from disintegrating into the void, from slipping out of their hands like their previous creations. When everything else had failed they came up with a desperate plan: They decided to weave a powerful spell that would bind Tibiasula's fading body to the column of time. Zathroth laughed in mocking triumph, but this time he made a crucial mistake, because he failed to listen carefully to the words Uman and Fardos uttered, and so he missed the one chance he had to learn the secret of creation, a secret that would be hidden from him forever. Uman and Fardos, however, went on to weave the elusive elements into powerful strands. It was beyond their power to unite them to their previous harmony, but instead they achieved something that was altogether new: The first genuine creation.





Chapter III: The Birth of the Elements


So it came to pass that Winterot, the living core of all creation, was born.

It derived from the element of the earth, whereas Sula, the mighty sea lapping gently against Winterot's shores, was created from the element of water. Air rose over creation and spread itself like a protective blanket over it, while fire was to be the fundament, warming the land with its eternal flames. Finally, all the elements had taken their places to form the world, and each of the individual parts of the God was sparkling with divine energy! Unfortunately, however, they were all wild and impetuous, driven by their impulsive natures. It was clear that none of them had inherited Tibiasula's gentle spirit - the harmony had been destroyed forever. However, Uman and Fardos did not give up. They decided to create something new from the elements, something that would resemble Tibiasula or at the very least honour her memory. For many aeons they studied the elements, until finally they made an important discovery - the elements held within them seeds of new creation, seeds which would bear fruit if one of the elder gods united with the elements. And so it came to pass that the gods had finally discovered the secret of life. Fardos was the first to try. He united with the element of fire, and fire bore him two children: Fafnar, a daughter, and Suon, a son. Soon enough these two new gods took their rightful places in creation. They chose to live in the sky that lay over it. And so it came to pass that two suns rose above creation to shed their light on it. Unfortunately, however, the two siblings were quite different in character, and they did not get on well. While Suon was calm and considerate, his sister Fafnar was reckless and wild, and she carelessly ravaged the world with her searing flames. Finally, Suon lost patience with his sister. He attacked her, and so a furious fight ensued. In this struggle Suon prevailed because he was stronger than his sister, and so Fafnar turned to flee across the sky, trying to reach the safety of the underworld where fire, her elemental mother, lived. However, Suon followed his sister even to her refuge in the underworld, and so Fafnar left it and once again fled across the sky. Suon continued his relentless chase, and he does so to this day. This is the reason why every day both of the suns disappear from the horizon for a time, causing the land to fall into darkness. Now Uman tried his luck. He united with earth which as we know is called Winterot. And earth bore him Crunor the Lord of the Trees. This god was full of charm and vitality. Like Fafnar, his capricious cousin, Crunor loved his own shape, but he was wiser than her and far more modest. He soon became a creator of living things himself, because he was inspired by creation and by the miraculous gift of life. He designed plants after his own image and placed them on the body of mother Winterot, until they covered all of her face like a beautiful garment. Fardos then united with air, and he begot Nornur the God of Fate. Nornur envied Crunor's proud shape because he had inherited his mother's fragile, delicate form, and in fact his body had hardly more substance than a fleeting cloud or a song in the wind. He asked his creative cousin to help him get a firm body of his own, but no matter how hard the cousins tried, they did not find a solution. Nornur always was what he had been in the first place: An ethereal god, the shadow of a shadow. To console his sad cousin, Crunor suggested to Nornur that he should at least create some living being that belonged to him so he could manifest himself in his servants. And so it came to pass that the spiders came into the world, elegant if eerie creatures who could weave gossamer webs of great beauty. Fragile and fleeting, these delicate webs resemble Nornur's ephemeral form. Finally, Uman united with Sula, the sea, and that was the hour that Bastesh the Mistress of the Sea was conceived. She was exceedingly beautiful, and Uman and Fardos were sad when they saw her, for she reminded them of Tibiasula, Bastesh's divine ancestress. But alas! Her beauty would not last. When Fafnar, the vain sun goddess, beheld Bastesh, she exploded with jealousy and attacked her with all the fury of her injured pride. Deep sank her fiery claws into the frail body of the newly born goddess, and had it not been for the other gods she would have torn her apart. That was the moment Suon decided to punish his sister for her misdeeds, and as a just punishment she was sentenced to continue her flight eternally, fleeing across Winterot's skies from her brother's fury. Bastesh, however, never fully recovered from the terrible wounds inflicted on her by her jealous cousin. Her beauty was ruined forever almost as soon as it came to this world, but worse still were the scars she bore inside. She grew up to be shy and melancholic, preferring the quiet solitude of the ocean whose waters are said to be salty because of her ceaseless tears. However, even though she rarely communicated with the outside world her presence was revealed by an abundance of sea creatures that soon came to populate the ocean.




Chapter IV: The First Creatures


Zathroth watched the progress of creation with wrath and disgust.

If he had had his way, he would have obliterated creation then and there. However, he knew that he lacked the power to do that, especially since Fardos and Uman were now well aware of his intentions and watched him carefully. He would have to resort to other means to bring ruin to creation. It was for this reason that he watched the concept of life with great interest, because he foresaw quite clearly that a lot of mischief could be done with it. Much as he loathed most of the gods that had been created, there was one who had caught his attention. Fafnar's base instincts and her destructive powers did not fail to impress him, and so a plan came to his mind. He flattered her with compliments and before long he succeeded in seducing her. Thus Brog the Raging Titan was conceived. An exceedingly ugly abomination that had only one eye in its huge head, Brog had inherited little of his father's cunning and none of his caution, yet he was strong and fierce, and his mother's furious heat burned wildly inside him. As he grew up, Brog was pained by the fire burning inside him, until one day when it grew unbearable he summoned all his magical powers and released as much of the painful flame into the world as he could. The searing fire mixed with his rage, and from it rose Garsharak, the very first dragon, who later sired a whole race of intelligent, giant lizards, a race that would eventually bring terror and chaos into Winterot. Brog watched the terrible creature he had created rather accidentally, and he rejoiced when he saw just how fierce and powerful it was. Though he was rather stupid he, too, had the gift to create life, which in an act of vanity he next used to create the cyclopes in his own image. Zathroth watched Brog's experiments with great interest. So far he had not held his son in high esteem, but here was something for which he himself admittedly had little talent for. Since he did not understand the laws of life himself he knew that Brog's gift could prove to be a great asset. He called his son to him and told him to go on with his experiments, urging him to create something more terrifying and destructive than cyclopes. Even though these giants were ferocious and strong, they were not quite as destructive as he wanted them to be. In fact, due to their love of mining and smithing the cyclopes were a creative rather than a destructive race. Worse, they were not propagating fast enough to make them a real threat to creation. For this reason Brog went on to create Trolls and Goblins, races that were weaker than the cyclopes, but propagated much faster. However, his undisputed masterpiece were the Orcs, a race of fearsome, single-minded warriors who lived only to expand and conquer. Soon they had spread all over Winterot, and they were the scourge of all that was alive.




Chapter V: The Age of Chaos


Uman looked with sadness at the damage his evil half had done to the creation Fardos and he had worked for so hard.

He felt that Zathroth had finally gone too far. In his desperation he turned to Fardos for advice. Together, they decided that it would be best to sever the bond between Uman and Zathroth once and for all. They set about to this task with great energy, and their efforts soon enough appeared to be crowned with success. However, the weaker the bond between Uman and Zathroth became, the weaker Uman himself grew, and in the end they realised that the duality could not be separated without endangering Uman's very existence. At last the invocation was aborted. Uman had to accept the fact that the duality between Zathroth and himself could not be broken, and that their fate and indeed their very existence were intertwined for eternity. However, Uman's and Fardos's joint efforts did not remain entirely without consequence, for during the unsuccessful attempt to separate the double god a small part broke away from it. This tiny shard grew and expanded until it took shape and eventually became a sentient creature of its own. This was the hour Kirok the Mad was born. Owing to his peculiar ancestry this strange god has a twisted or, as some say, a schizophrenic nature. He inherited Uman's creative mind and his inquisitive nature, so that he eventually became the patron god of all those who follow the path of science and research. However, the one trait Kirok is really famous for is his twisted sense of humour. He adores bad taste and ingenious pranks, and this peculiar characteristic makes him the favourite of bards, jesters and of all other kinds of suspicious people. While Fardos and Uman were working hard on their spell, Zathroth's minions went on to lay waste to the elder gods' precious creation, and the devastation continued without pause. It seemed as though the whole world was doomed to perish. However, some of the lesser gods who were tired of just standing by while their beloved Winterot was ravaged. They decided to put up resistance against the reckless hordes. Bastesh the Mistress of the Sea created huge, mysterious creatures that were both elegant and fierce, and she populated her beloved ocean with them to make sure Zathroth's minions would never defile its pure waters. However, there was little she could do to help her cousins who lived on the dry land. Of all her creatures the only ones to survive on land were the dextrous and venomous snakes. Crunor and Nornur, too, created creatures to fight against Brog's and Zathroth's hordes: Crunor the Lord of the Trees created fierce Wolves, while Nornur equipped his beloved spiders with deadly poison to make them more powerful. However, for all their efforts, the gods could not create creatures that were a match for the ruthless, well-organised hordes that roamed the land. The wolves' hides and the spiders chitinous exoskeletons could not resist the steel of the orcish blades, and for every troll that was brought down by poison two others came to take his place. In the end gods' children withdrew to areas that were easy to defend: The wolves fled into the depths of the forests, while the spiders hid deep in caves. There they continued their fights, defending their realms against the onslaught of the superior enemy. These little pockets of resistance were the only sanctuaries in a world that sank deeper and deeper into chaos. And the worst was yet to come, for now the dragons felt the time had come to take what was theirs by right! For centuries they had propagated and expanded in silence, largely unnoticed by all other creatures. But now that Garsharak, the very first and strongest of their race, sent them into the world they knew neither restraint nor mercy. The orcish armies were routed by the relentless flames of magical dragon fire, and soon that proud though barbaric race, who until then had not known the meaning of the word defeat, was driven into the shelter of subterranean settlements. Their allies, the mighty cyclopes, fared no better. Although they won a number of notable victories using their powerful weapons and armour, they, too, had to yield to the superior power of the dreaded dragons. They joined their former allies, the orcs, and their weak cousins, the trolls, in their subterranean exile. Their proud cities that had been built in the course of centuries were burnt down to the ground, and their renowned forges were lost forever. Thus the dragons had taken over the rule of the land, but the war was by no means over. Their bitter enemies, cyclopes and orcs, resented what they felt was an imprisonment in the bowels of the earth, and they continued the fight from their subterranean hideouts. And in fact the dragons, who had already been weakened in the course of the previous battles, suffered serious losses. But now war also erupted among the former allies, as cyclopes and orcs competed for food and space in their subterranean abodes. And even though no side was strong enough to overcome the others the war went on with undiminished force, and all of the races suffered greatly in the epic struggle. The land was scattered with bodies, and while it seemed that life itself would be wiped from the face of Winterot the losses of all races that were involved daily grew in number. It was as if the living would drown in the bodies of the slain. The elder gods watched as the cataclysmic battle went on. They felt no pity for those that were slain because they cared little for Zathroth's creatures, but they knew that something was missing, that somebody was needed to take care of the bodies and souls of those who ceased to live. They began to look for a solution, and finally Uman proposed that a new god should be created, a god who should see to it that the dead would be taken care of. They decided that earth, which in a way was the giver of life, should have a part in taking it back, and that Uman should be the newly created god's father. But alas! The elder gods were not as cautious as they should have been, and so Zathroth the Destroyer learnt about their plans all too soon. He was fascinated by the idea of death from the start, because he saw in it a new chance to bring further havoc and destruction into the world. Soon he had devised a vicious plan. He posed as his good half Uman to fool earth, and with it he sired another god: Urgith the Master of the Undead. This hideous deity was devoted to death just like the god Uman and Fardos had in mind, but he was not the benign guardian of the dead they had envisioned. Instead, Urgith was a cruel god who strove to infuse the bodies of the dead with unholy energy, dooming them to a state that was neither life nor death. Thus, the hour of Urgith's birth marked the beginning of undeath. Soon enough innumerable undead roamed the world. After all, Winterot was still covered by countless bodies of slain orcs, cyclopes and other creatures - the legacy of the many years of ceaseless war. These cadavers provided Urgith with the ideal recruitment pool, and he eagerly transformed all carcasses he could lay his hands into his gruesome servants. The gods watched in horror as a new scourge ravaged their beloved creation. They hurried to finally put their own initial plan into practice, and Uman united with earth in order to sire Toth the Warden of the Souls. It was to be his mission to safely guide the souls of the dead to the otherworld, where they would safely rest in the peace of an eternal dreamless slumber, while the worms, his faithful servants, swarmed out to devour their bodies that scattered the face of Winterot. But the damage had been done, and even though Toth and his servants did the best they could Urgith's ghastly creations continued to roam the land. All the other creatures, who were already greatly weakened by their endless wars, could put up little resistance to the new enemy who increased in strength with every loss they suffered. It looked as if Winterot was forever doomed to be a world that was inhabited by the living dead. The elder gods looked at what had happened to their world, and their hearts filled with sorrow and resentment. They knew that if they did not act now Winterot would be destined to become a grave, and so they started looking for a solution. Eventually they agreed to try to create a sentient race of their own, a race that would be strong enough to take up the fight against the hordes that ravaged their beloved world. And so they created a race and sent it into Winterot. But alas! Urgith's minions were too strong. Their race was defeated within a generation, and it was wiped from the face of Winterot. So Uman and Fardos created race after race, and race after race was overwhelmed by the vicious abominations that Urgith had released into the world. Most of these races disappeared from the face of Winterot forever, leaving little but melancholy legends and mysterious ruins. Today, this sad era which is commonly known as the Corpse War is largely shrouded in mystery, and the unfortunate races that were destroyed in it are now referred to as the ancients. However, not all of the ancients were eradicated in the fierce struggle. At least two of the races created by the elder gods in the course of this epic struggle somehow managed to escape destruction and to survive until today. One of them was the Elves, delicate creatures who could handle bows and musical instruments with equal skill. The other was the Dwarfs, a stout race of gifted miners and smiths. Both of these races fought bravely, but both of them had to yield to the vicious power of their enemies, and it was only by fleeing into safe places of refuge that they managed to survive. The elves after many hardships sought shelter in the unfathomable depths of the forests, while the dwarfs barricaded themselves in their impenetrable fortresses deep in Winterot's mountains. There, these races waited for better times, bitterly deploring the cruel fate that had sent them into this dreadful world. But at least they had survived. All the other ancient races were seemingly sentenced to oblivion, although it is occasionally claimed that there are other survivors. For all their strength, these races had one important flaw in common: They lacked flexibility. And this proved to be fatal in the war against the relentless enemy they were facing. Those who were not annihilated succumbed to Zathroth's temptations. More than one of the ancients fell for Zathroth's cunning promises of power and knowledge, and legend has it that the wrathful elder gods brutally punished many of them for their treachery. There is even a persistent theory that some of these ancients later on were formed by the devious Zathroth into the very first Demons. Be that as it may, all the ancients failed to live up to their creators' expectations: One by one they were overwhelmed by the enemy, and still the hordes walked the world. But the elder gods had learnt from their mistakes. Their next creation was to be well suited for the task. And they called them the Humans.




Chapter VI: The Creation of the Humans


So it came to pass that the elder gods created Banor the Divine Warrior.

He was the very first human, and though his creators gave him powers no other member of his race would ever be able to match, he already displayed many characteristics which clearly proved him to be human. To this very day he is especially revered as an ideal of chivalry and bravery by those who dedicate themselves to the art of hand-to-hand combat, for he was just and brave in battle, and his prowess with the blade is legendary to this very day. Legend has it that the gods were also planning to create a twin brother for Banor, and that this twin was to wield incredible magical powers. However, it is said that Zathroth stole this prototype to create from it the very first demon overlord. Whatever the truth, the fact that the humans had entered the world of Winterot could no longer be overlooked. For despite their many weaknesses they were a brave and clever race, and they adapted surprisingly well to the grim world into which the gods had cast them. They took up the fight against the undead and the various others despicable creatures that roamed the lands, and soon the hordes realised that a new, powerful enemy had arisen. Many a fierce and bloody battle was fought, but Banor, a brave and shrewd leader, led his people from victory to victory. Still, those triumphs were often paid for with heavy sacrifices, and the sheer numbers of enemies the humans had to face was overwhelming. The gods did all they could to assist their new champion race in its struggle. Uman introduced the race into the arcane art of Magic, and many a human followed his vocation to become a powerful Sorcerer. Others were instructed by Crunor the Lord of the Trees to learn about the secrets of life, and they became Druids and learnt how to heal those of their brethren who were wounded in the war against the relentless enemy. Of all humans it was them who learnt most about the secrets of life, and in fact some of them assisted Crunor in creating many creatures that populate Winterot today. But many of their creations were soon enough wiped out in the course of the cruel struggle. And the war went on and on. Banor had established a strong foothold in the land, and he consolidated his rule by founding a dynasty. He married Kirana, the noblest of all women, and she bore him Elane, who eventually came to master both the arts of distance fighting and the arcane art of magic, thus becoming the very first of the noble Paladins. To this day the position of the leader of all paladins must only be filled with a woman, and those who do so invariably adopt the honorary name of Elane. Later on Elane fought side by side with her father, because Banor, who was in fact a demigod, was to live for many centuries. But even this did not help to turn the tide. The human warriors triumphed whenever Banor led them, but then the mighty human champion could not be everywhere, and those human armies that went into battle without him were vanquished by the dark hordes all too often.




Chapter VII: Winterot's Renewal


Finally, Banor again turned to the gods to help him, and they answered his prayers.

Again it was the ever-resourceful Uman who had found a solution, a solution that was possible because he had made a most amazing discovery: He had found that beyond the very fabric of existence there were other dimensions, far-away planes in which even the elder gods held no power. However, Uman had found a way to establish a connection to these alternative planes of existence, and after much experimenting he had learnt that it was possible to conjure souls of living creatures from these planes. When brought to Winterot these souls could be turned into human shape, forming the champions the human race desperately needed. This, then, was the answer to the human's problems, and it was swiftly put into practice. The gods planted a number of magical gates on Winterot, gates that were soon referred to as Portals of Souls. Through these gates a steady flow of heroes came into the world, human warriors that were both cunning and brave, and with the aid of these champions the abominable hordes were slowly but surely pushed back. At long last it looked as though the order would be restored. Things looked brighter for the human race than they had done in a long time. The allied powers of heroes and humans advanced further and further into the enemy's territory, and the dark hordes seemed to stand on the verge of utter defeat. But alas! Those who believed that the old races would now be wiped from the face of Winterot for good were a little hasty, because something unexpected happened. Faced with the seemingly overwhelming might of the human armies the old races did what for aeons had been unthinkable: They signed a truce. Dragons, orcs, undead and all those other races that had fought amongst themselves for so long suddenly stopped attacking each other and concentrated on their war against the human race. And so it came to pass that again things took a turn for the worse. Even though their enemies did not trust each other enough to form any alliance worth mentioning, the sheer fact that they stopped fighting amongst each other brought the human race into a very precarious position. Soon their advance was brought to halt, and once more they were forced onto the defensive. The human armies decided to withdraw to their fortified cities to resume the war there, but again they made a surprising discovery. For this time, the very first time in recorded history, the enemies of the humans did not rush after them to take up the fight. Many were puzzled by this, as it was not readily apparent why the hordes acted this way. A common theory was the tensions and the mutual distrust between the old races was too strong for them to combine their forces in a sustained campaign, and some even claimed that they had started waging war against each other once more. Others suggested that the old races had exhausted themselves in the course of the many wars, while still others hinted that perhaps an equilibrium had been reached, a status quo which all sides felt they could live with. Whatever the reason, a period of restless but fundamentally stable peace ensued, and it lasts to this day. For the very first time the troubled world has a reprieve from the ceaseless slaughter which troubled it for aeons. The humans have availed themselves well of this opportunity. Under the wise guidance of the Thaian kings, who were direct descendants of Banor, the race is living through a golden age. The arts and the sciences prosper, and many a thriving city has been founded. To be sure, the humans' expansion has met with fierce resistance, and in fact the dauntless heroes who still enter this world from the mysterious Portals of Souls are busy enough to fight the constant threat posed by all kinds of hostile creatures. But so far the peace has lasted, and under its protection the human race has finally asserted itself as the dominant species in Winterot. However, there are disquieting signs that this glorious era might slowly come to its end. For the old enemies have never been vanquished, and now it seems that they are growing increasingly restless. The fierce orcs are stirring once more, attacking human settlements and sometimes even major cities in vicious, well-coordinated attacks. The undead have again started to walk the land, striking fear into the hearts of the living. There are even disconcerting reports that the fearsome dragons who have lain dormant for centuries are again leaving their hidden lairs to prey. Worst of all, the humans, that curious race, have started bickering amongst themselves, and more than once tensions have led to armed conflicts. In the course of time, some humans even renounced the Thaian kings' rule and founded own cities and empires. It may be that this is yet another one of Zathroth's wicked ploys. It is well known that his most diabolic minions, the gruesome demons, are lurking in the shadows, biding their time. Who knows - perhaps Winterot is on the brink of another cataclysmic war, and a new twilight will fall on the world. Fate alone knows what the future has in store for Winterot. Let us all hope and pray that the humans' unity will not break just when it is needed most...

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