The Forgotten Ones Campaign
The history of Tarsus is one of both greatness and decadency, of gods and fiends, and of knowledge and ignorance. The many records that were kept by the Ancient Mynokosian Empire have been destroyed or buried, and we can only guess beyond a few centuries. We know even less about the other humanoid races that once inhabited this planet. Recorded history is clearer starting with the ascension of Arestophenes to godhood, known as the Olympian Reckoning (OR).
Era before Eras
Collectively known as the Era before Eras. Very little is known about this time, and what is known is unclear and largely speculation. The land was a battleground. On one side, the elves, dwarves, gnomes, and cyclopes banded together after ages of conflict. On the other: the mythical and deific creature known as the Beast. Their battle defined the landscape, and during this age humans rose; a small tribe huddling the coast of the Althean Sea near what is now known as Mynokos in modern-day Cyrene. It is from this, the first humans, that one man rose and defeated the Beast, and cast its bones onto the side of Mount Olympus.
Era of New Omens
The Founding of the first human city: Mynokos. The First Ones had a tense relationship with the other humanoid races, especially with the cyclopes. After a few decades, most of the other races received revelations foretelling the coming dominion of men. The gnomes were the first to depart, to their caverns beneath the Lyconis Mountains. Next were the dwarves, who sailed in their ships to the north. It is unknown as to where they sailed. Finally, the elves departed through the Elf Gates, mystical portals to other worlds. The cyclopes, who had only grudgingly allied with these races, attempted to rebuild their once world-wide empire Hold of the Red Eye. The rising human race was equally expansionist, and thus the two races became ancient enemies.
-circa 3000 OR
The cyclopes of the Alphus Mountains destroy the last of the Elf Gates in the eleven capital of Ismailia. Using the elven city, they attempt to reestablish their ancient empire of Ghol Gan, which in the human tongue, roughly translates to Hold of the Red Eye.
The Official Beginning of the Ancient Mynokosian Empire. Within a century, the empire becomes the most advanced civilization ever seen in Tarsus, having learned many things from the elves, dwarves, gnomes, and even the cyclopes. From the elves, we gained art, music, arcane magic, and social/political philosophy. From the dwarves, we learned metalworking, shipbuilding, architecture, divine magic, and economy. From the gnomes, we explored science, experimentation, technology, and the use of steam-power and electricity. From the cyclopes, we learned the art of war, the fundamentals of strategy, and religious observance.
The Ancient Mynokosian Empire, under the generalship of King Arestophenes I, conquers the Hold of the Red Eye. The empire of the cyclopes is thought to have been destroyed.
Era of Prosperity
The secret of theurgy, a combination of arcane and divine magic, is discovered by the famous alchemist Nicodemus. This technology is used in the city of Mynokos, and in numerous Mynokosian sites and cities now lost to us. It is said that this power doesn’t lose energy, and can operate for eternity, even if its creators have perished.
The caverns of the gnomes are discovered deep within the Lyconis Mountains. A mining expedition is sent there to explore and excavate the ruins. They find strange metals, hard and yet flexible, in great stores. They continue to dig, and bring back treasures beyond even a king’s wildest dreams.
The mining expedition suddenly vanishes. No word of them ever returns. Strange and monstrous creatures, naming themselves the servants of the Beast, emerge, and continue to harass the Ancient Empire for centuries. More unsettling is the spread of the theology of the Beast, and depraved humans within the empire begin a secret cult, attempting to usher in a return to simple life, a feat only achievable, they say, by the resurrection of the Beast.
There has been more than a millennium of prosperity and great advances in every aspect of society. The lowest class of people has money to spare, and the citizens themselves are born with theurgic power. The only enemies of the empire are scattered remnants of the Hold of the Red Eye, occasional squabbles with fey, brief and inconsequential infighting, and the sparse but powerful servants of the Beast. Unfortunately, the safety and developments bring with them an enormous amount of pride and slothfulness. This culminates with the reign of the arrogant and megalomaniacal King Delphius. He foolishly leads a great army into the Lyconis Mountains to silence the servants of the Beast once and for all time. Unbeknownst to him, the servants of the Beast have gathered from across the world and various planes. The army is massacred, and King Delphius is killed by a stray javelin while attempting to run from battle. His many children begin to fight over possession of the kingdom, as well as the governors of various cities and the generals of the vast army. This struggle will come to be known as the War of the Many.
Era of Strife
The Province of Delphi, led by Warlord Ambrose, the second eldest son of King Delphius, conquers Mynokos from his elder brother Aaron. The Province expands rapidly, and brutally takes control of much of the early empire. The line of succession from Ambrose will become the royalty of the Unified Mynokosian Empire.
The Province of Delphi and the Province of Cyrene become two superpowers in a struggle over the throne. The ruler of the Province of Cyrene is descended from Cyrene IV, the last general of the Mynokosian Empire, and ultimately from Arestophenes I, conqueror of the Hold of the Red Eye. The lesser provinces attempt to hold their own, and soon become mere buffer states for the superpowers.
The Province of Delphi defeats the armies of the Province of Cyrene in a stunning and bloody victory in the Battle of the Blood Rivers, located in the Laodicea river valley and modern-day Pyrgos. The land is filled with the collapsed siege engines of both sides and stained with the blood of the fallen soldiers, and is devoid of life for centuries.
Arestophenes II, the secret heir to the Province of Cyrene and supposed heir to the Province of Delphi, chooses to forsake his heritage to Cyrene, and becomes Warlord of Delphi.He builds the first navy since the Ancient Empire, and establishes port cities along the coast of the mainland and the Althean Sea.
The Grand Hierophant of the Beast is discovered, and buried alive within the gnome caverns in the Lyconis Mountains. With this final great act, Arestophenes II dies, leaving the fast growing kingdom to his teenage son, Arestophenes III.
Era of Divinity
Arestophenes III proves his battle-skill and leadership by defeating the last Province, and uniting the provinces into the Unified Mynokosian Empire. In the same year, almost the entire Althean fleet is destroyed by a strange magical storm emanating from the center of the Sea. The remaining ships discover a mountain in the center. Its peak cannot be seen, and the island it creates is storm-ravaged and impossible to land on. This event will be forever known as the Olympian Reckoning, or OR.
Several attempts have been made to land on the strange island and to scale the mountain. Finally, King Arestophenes himself sails with fifty men to the island. He manages to land on the island, and begins to climb the mountain. He faces twelve deadly challenges, and all of his men are slain in the attempt. He completes the Labors, and reaches the top. The Olympian Deities, residing in a palace atop the mountain, bestow divinity upon him, replacing one of their own with him. He is renamed Ares, the god of war and strife. He visits his kingdom to name a new ruler, and to establish the worship of the Olympian Pantheon as the official theology of the Unified Mynokosian Empire.
The First Temple is constructed to Ares in the ruins of the capital of the Province of Cyrene. From it, a new city is built. This will become the modern-day city of Cyrene.
The site of the Battle of the Blood Rivers is visited by followers of Athena, and they construct a temple in her honor to combat the evil influence of the lingering spirits of fallen warriors.
Rare spices, such as cinnamon and pepper, are found on islands to the Southeast of Olympia. This commodity sparks island exploration to the East, known as the Eastern Expedition. A colony is founded on the island-chain of Heraklion.
Colonies are founded in the Abderan Islands.
The centennial celebration of the Unified Mynokosian Empire ends with a presentation of the rediscovery of theurgy. Unfortunately, the means to recreate it as an energy source are unavailable, and so a hunt begins to find the theurgic machines made by the Ancient Empire.
Alphus Mountain settlements in the region once ruled by the Hold of the Red Eye are overrun and massacred by cyclopes thought to be extinct. Despite this threat, the Unified Empire continues to flourish and develop technology.
Oracles all over Tarsus prophesy simultaneously of a new Era of Prosperity within a millennium. Rapid increase and development of technology and urbanization spurs this theory, and people begin to think that the Era will come sooner than expected.
Without warning, the largest natural disaster ever to hit Tarsus occurs. An enormous earthquake shakes the entire world. Seas rise and fall, mountains explode and crumble, cities topple, and provinces perish. In the confusion and suffering, the Beast arises through means unknown and brings calamity upon the weakened Empire.
Era of Uncertainty
The Unified Mynokosian Empire disbands amid the chaos and destruction reeked by the Beast. The apocalypse seems nigh. Forty percent of the population perishes. No help seems to come from the gods. Rage and bitterness finds its root in the people who remain, and festers throughout the ages to the present day. The Beast returns to slumber in its deep den in the Lyconis Mountains, and is sealed within using powerful magicks. Humankind degenerates to tribal society for almost a century, except for the city of Cyrene, which tries to hold onto the traditions of the past. However, the ruling Mynokosian elite were almost entirely destroyed, and thus the Thracian under-class takes control.
Thracian-domintated Cyrene begins conquering territory throughout eastern Olympia. The city-state subjugates roaming tribes of humans, enslaving most. The infamous Reign of the Barbarian Kings is established.
One of the human tribes, the Pyrgosians, revolt from Cyrenean enslavement. They break from the territories and come upon the ruins of the Temple of the Shining Helm in western Olympia. The attempt to restore the temple is unsuccessful, and so instead they build a city dedicated to Athena. They name the new city Pyrgos in honor of the original patriarch of their tribe.
Pyrgos’ year of official independence from Cyrene. Cyrene sends thirty battalions of soldiers to Pyrgos. These troops are, however, ill-equipped and poorly-trained. Most of the elite troops are battling the Hold of the Red Eye in the north, and thus Pyrgos defeats the army on the foothills of the Lyconis Mountains, on a site later named Battle Ridge.
A large number of slaves split from the mainland as the threat of war looms on the horizon between Pyrgos and Cyrene. They are led by Abydosius, a demigod son of Zeus. They travel further west, across the seas west of Olympia. They are attacked by the Scylla. Many die: among them, Abydosius’ wife, Helike.
The Abydosians discover the Abydosian Archipelago. They found settlements on the western island, and finally establish their capital, Abydos, on the central island. Abydosius orders the construction of five towers, one on each island, for reasons unknown. Word of the bounties of Abydos sparks a Western Expedition, which is cut short by the Tarsian War.
Cyrenean explorers discover the island of Xanthi. They build a shrine to Artemis and a settlement on the Southern Shore, which eventually becomes Antioch, the Holy City.
Two groups of explorers, one from Pyrgos and one from Cyrene, discover an Ancient Mynokosian Library within the Messene Expanse. In it, they find the legend of Mt. Olympus, as well as an accounting of the Olympian Pantheon, and the history of the Ancient Mynokosian Empire. The two factions decide to reconcile their differences, and to preserve the peace between Pyrgos and Cyrene, they separate the pages between them. They are discovered by both countries, and whilst being tortured, one of the men reveals his documents. Both nations sail to Mt. Olympus and attempt to conquer the island. This conflict sparks the Tarsian War.
The largest naval battle in history, the Strife of Burning Sails, rages in the southern Althean Sea amidst a powerful thunderstorm. Both sides suffer heavy casualties, and although Cyrene is victorious, their great naval commander Aegeus perishes, resulting in few naval victories for Cyrene throughout the rest of the Tarsian War.
The Battle of the Blood Rivers is waged once more. Cyrene gains temporary control of the city of Pyrgos. They hold the city for seven months, during which they commit horrible atrocities against the people within the walls. Elite battalions of Pyrgos travel through secret ways underneath the city and retake it.
Aegeus II, son of the late naval commander and first mate on The Argo, acts in subordination. Before his execution, he is saved by the rest of the crew, and he takes control of the ship. Rather than continue the endless war, he begins to charter the world. He begins to sail the seas far and wide, discovering new lands and documenting what he finds.
Aegeus II discovers the land now known as Aegium. Half of the crew asks to settle on the island, and Aegeus allows them to. After a particularly ferocious storm, Aegeus is forced to make repairs, and stays for a while on the island.
Aegeus II, attempting to bypass a fierce naval engagement in the southern seas between Pyrgos and Cyrene, travels through the Spiral Pass. His crew battles the Terror of the Spiral, and manages to sail through after losing many men. The Argo sails to Abydos to resupply and rest, and hire crew members.
Aegeus II discovers The Unknown Island. He sends a search party onto the island. One badly wounded crew member returns, and tells of horrible cannibalistic sorcerers, but he has gone quite mad, and cannot coherently report on the actual island. Anxious to leave, Aegeus leaves the island unnamed and unexplored. He travels west, and discovers the island nation of Lebena.
Attempting to find a passage to the Northern Sea from Abydos, Aegeus II sails his ship through what became known as the Strait of Aegeus. The passage is impossible, and amid turbid waters and crashing icebergs, The Argo sinks, and all on-board, including Aegeus, perish.
Amid pressure and threats from Pyrgos and Cyrene, Lebena signs the Treaty of Agrippnos with Abydos; Lebena agrees to be a colony of Abydos and pay in tribute and military support, but gains protection from the Tarsian War as a neutral state. The city of Agrippnos is built to watch and protect Lebena.
While the Tarsian War rages further south on the mainland. The Hold of the Red Eye attempts to reestablish its former glory, and easily takes hold of the Northern Abderan Island, Orestias. The Tarsian War becomes four-sided, as Abydosian spies, saboteurs, and peacemakers travel to all lands to prevent further excessive bloodshed and attempt a peaceful resolution.
The Lernaean Huntsmen travel to Xanthi and build or find the Temple of Lernaea.
Abydosian peacemakers resolve the Tarsian War with the Olympian Pact, which gives the Hold of the Red Eye recognition as a nation, and gives half of the island in the center of the Althean Sea to Cyrene and half to Pyrgos. However, it is still unclear as to which nation actually won the war. The nation of Abydos lost nothing and gained recognition of its peacemaking abilities, but was never officially in the war. The Hold of the Red Eye gained recognition as an official country, but failed to conquer its once vast holdings on the mainland. Cyrene lost many of their ships, and the naval capacity of the nation, although still formidable, was greatly diminished. Pyrgos, on the other hand, lost many land battles, and the strength of its land-based forces is still relatively small.
Abydos founds the outpost of Kannae on the northwest coast of Xanthi.
The current year.
GM’s Note: 972 OR was the date of the publication of Stephen Athen’s Atlas of Tarsus . The start of our adventure was late in the year 975 OR.