Thousands of years before the present, the world of Talnera was a maelstrom of wildfires, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, tidal waves, and countless other forms of elemental disasters. Elemental kings rules the world, and their violent whims ravaged nearly every corner of the planet. Only in the deepest parts of the ocean was life safe enough to develop intelligence.
The meeri knew how dangerous the world was beyond their quiet trenches, and they knew that the only way to exapnd was to find some way to counter the immense power of the elementals. Those that managed to return from explorations of the surface told of an ocean of darkness and light beyond the smoke and clouds on the surface. It was these stars that the meeri came to worship in search of succor, and it was from the stars that their salvation would come.
Nearly six thousand years before the present, meeri civilization had spread to every safe place the ocean could support, and even occupied temporary footholds in more dangerous areas. They had contacted a being of immense power from somewhere among the stars, and it guided their efforts in technology, magic, and military might.
Eventually the meeri were able to fight elementals on equal footing, and to spread their domain to the world's coasts. Surprised and frightened by these development, the elementals worked together to create life obedient to them. The titans were mortals of terrible power, but possessed of intelligence and an instinct for order that the elementals themselves lacked. The elementals retreated to the world of their origin, a place called the Elemental Chaos. They left the titans behind to eradicate the meeri and prepare Talnera for their return.
The creation of titans was not a simple, straightforward affair. Even though the elemental kings had incredible power, they did not have the discipline necessary to cooperate and create an orderly, predictable life form. Their first efforts were mostly aberrations and hideous monsters, either completely unfit for life or discarded as a bestial monster.
The second-to-last creation of the elemental kings was the small race of gnomes. With a knack for magic and mischief, they embodied the spirit of the elementals, if not their power. Rather than simply cast them aside, the elemental kings kept the gnomes close by for a time and studied them to learn what features to improve and what aspects to retain.
When they had finished their studies, the elemental kings created the titans. The gnomes were not imbued with the strength or purpose or nobility of the titans, but they clove to their younger siblings regardless. In time they became a kind of vermin, living off of the refuse of the titans.
Over three thousand years before present, the titans had built a civilization above and below the waves that rivalled that of the meeri. The frequency and scope of the battles between those two civilizations escalated until their war consumed the entire world. In the relative stability of the environment above the ocean during this period, a unique race gained awareness.
For centuries a loose "neutral network" of carnivorous trees later dubbed bloodwoods had hung to life in any place not completely destroyed by elemental disasters. With the arrival of the titans and the cessation of constant natural disaster, plant and animal life was able to flourish. It was in this environment that some bloodwood networks became large and intelligent enough to direct their own development as a species. The process would take hundreds of years, but eventually the race now known as dral emerged with all the memories accumulated by bloodoods over those intervening years.
Nearly three thousand yearrs before the present, the war against the titans was going poorly for the meeri. As they slowly gave ground to their opponents, the meeri sought to bring their divine patron physically into the world to help them defeat the titans. Their god agreed, seeking to claim the world for his own when he arrived.
During years of preparation, meeri forces fell back to a specific location, where priests and magi of their kind wove a ritual of unbelievable power. As titan forces surrounded their foes for a decisive victory, the very fabric of reality parted to allow the god Raileh ito travel from beyond the stars to the aquatic battlefield. Raileh gathered his immense physical power to utter a curse so potent that it immediately incapacitated the entire race of titans. The meeri swept over their fores on that battlefield and wherever a titan lay or floated, clutching at himself in agony.
Then Raileh turned his attention to conquest.
Not all titans were destroyed by the meeri, and indeed the curse of Raileh did not kill them outright. Instead, those titans who survived found their bodies and minds twisting to reflect one specific element that went into their creation. Between the pain of transformation and the inferior capabilities of their new forms, titanic civilization collapsed. Over the span of a few months, not a single titan was left, and all those who had survived had become elemental giants instead.
Genasi legend holds that some titans survived the curse relatively intact--albeit smaller and less powerful--and after generations of hiding from the other races of the world they had become the race known today as genasi. The events of this same century were frought with amazing events, so the genasi legend may have factual merit.
Raileh found that the power he spent ending the age of titans was so great that he needed to rest. The meeri raised a great temple around him, and set about rebuilding their ravaged civilization. As the titans warped into giants, elemental energies that went into their initial creation were released. These energies altered the very lands around them and even altered some plant and animal life.
The creatures most dramatically affected by this change were a race of terrible predators that lurked in the wilderness wherever civilization did not reach. These predators were great winged reptiles that absorbed much of the released elemental energy simply by existing at the top of their local ecologies. They became more intelligent, longer lived, and more strongly attuned to certain elemental forces. Thus were dragons truly born.
Over two thousand years before the present, Raileh awoke to find the world a different place from the one he left. Only a handful of meeri remained to tend its great temple, and without a looming existential threat most of the others had moved on to more secular pursuits. Its presence on the world of Talnera had muted Raileh's power and subtly changed its very nature.
Raileh could only regain its power by the belief and devotion of mortal followers, but it represented a need that no longer needed to be filled. However, dozens of races of intelligent life had sprung up all around the world and Raileh saw that many of them might prove more committed than the meeri. So it used the energies of Talnera to create a deity like itself, but native to this world and intimately bound to it.
Raileh named its creation Arak, and sent him out to gain followers and power. In time, Arak would create others like himself for company, and they in turn would create their own spawn, until gods numbered in the hundreds and nearly all the magical energies of the world were bound up in their existence.
Nearly two thousand years before the present, dragons had grown in power and learned to manipulate magical energies as deftly as any meeri or giant. However, as the number and power of the gods expanded, free-flowing magical energies around the world dryed up. When the dragons sensed their power dwindling, it did not take long for them to identify a growing magical might among those mortals who had found religion.
The dragons started to attack the youngest "lesser" races: humans, vriaks, gnolls, troglodytes and goblinoids. Initially these attacks had no effect, but as dragons sought out creatures of greater power they provoked some of the gods into defending their flock. The first battle between gods and dragons was disastrous for the dragons, but in time they coordinated their attacks, and slew their first deity.
The release of magical energies the resulted ignited a full-scale war between gods and dragons.
The greatest casualties in the war between gods and dragons were suffered by mortals. History books are filled with tales of that conflict. In the end, both populations were dminished and free magic was loose in the world once again. The gods that remained retreated from the physical world, but remained in contact with their followers. Without the promise of additional magical energy to spur them on, the surviving dragons returned to their solitary, predatory ways.
And so it was that about fifteen hundred years ago, the world finally settled into a stable order without the threat of massive forces tearing whole continents or cities asunder. In such an environment, however, mortal threats could still flourish.
Over four hundred years before the present, a human civilization unified the western Kaddegh River Valley on the continent known only as The North. A century later, that civilization conquered across the rest of the continent as quickly as its armies could march. The empire held Avinius--the god of civilization, order, and military might--in the highest reverence. Whether by the pen or the sword, they brought one region of the continent after another under their rule.
About three hundred years before the present, all of the North except the barrier islands were members of a unified empire. Scholars disagree about what happened during the five years following the empire's total dominance of the North, but whatever the cause a terrible civil war erupted among the cities of the Kaddegh River Valley. As the civil war raged, the unity of the empire's territories strained, and then broke. Within thirty years the empire was completely dissolved.
A little more than fifty years before the present, a powerful runesmith used forbidden magics to conquer a town in Iso. The runesmith quickly became known as the Serpent, and within two years he had claimed all the lakelands as his own. Within four he had conquered the Heartlands and much of the White Steppes. As the Serpent's forces entered the Kaddegh River Valley, they met with strong resistance.
A man almost as mysterious as the Serpent had gathered a variety of refugees, volunteers, and veterans of all races and backgrounds and led them against the aggressors. Two years later--and despite the fact that the Serpent held all the lands between Kaddegh and the eastern coast--this mysterious man led his forces to deliver another major defeat on the opposite end of the continent.
For more than seven years the troops under the command of this defender--known as the Dragonsaint--fought the forces of the Serpent back, inch by bloody inch, until the Serpent was killed in combat somewhere in the White Steppes, and his armies routed from the field. The Dragonsaint himself disappeared quietly a few months later.
The Order of the Dragonsaint is a stateless military organization that formed around a mysterious historical figure known only as the Dragonsaint. The Order was formed with the purpose of defeating a powerful runesmith and warlord named the Serpent, and after his defeat and the disappearance of the Dragonsaint himself the Order gradually deteriorated.
The Order has a high degree of structure, but possess within it a so-called "special operations" division that allows it a great deal of operational flexibility. Because the Order is not officially attached to any government, its members sometimes work for (and sometimes against) local officials to maintain autonomy.
The Order is being rebuilt by a Serpent War veteran named Glass. Its motto is "Strike First, Strike Hard, Strike True."
Beyond the borders of the northern continent, a world waits to be discovered. One group of explorers from foreign shores are genasi. Descended from the fabled titans, these elemental humanoids are affiliated with a huge organization known as the Explorers' League. The Explorers' League has four autonomous branches tasked with the discovery and retrieval of facts and artifacts relating to the titans.
The Northern Expedition is one of these branches, and until recently it was led by an earthsould genasi named Lann. Now, both Lann and a firesoul genasi named Musaad claim leadership of the Northern Expedition. Musaad believes that the Expedition's goals are best served in service to the Serpent, while Lann opposes him. After the schism, many Expedition members retreated to Oris, the port where they first made landfall in the North.
The motto of all branches of the Explorers' League is "Survive, Adapt, Overcome."