The Saga of Five Ages is indeed an epic tale, spanning thousands of years and filled with glory and tragedy. Like most stories, it has its moments of discovery and disappointment, love and betrayal, angst and redemption. Such is the course of events within the existence of sentient beings.
But I get ahead of myself...
I am Kendoku. This is not my name --which is unimportant-- but my race of people. We are part of an ancient society that was born on Dreganos but was not of Dreganos. Our kind was spawned by the titans, a small group of unique and powerful beings who were spawned by the gods themselves. Many of the lesser races saw us as immortal, which is a misnomer, for we are more accurately described as ageless. We lived near the roof of the world, on a continent known as Edozan, beyond that impenetrable weather barrier known as the Stormwall, far removed from the other civilizations of that doomed planet.
Alas, before I leave you with the impression that we were a culture of lofty individuals, free from imperfections and virtuous beyond reproach, I feel it my duty to inform the reader on the truth of the matter. The Kendoku people were much like any other; we had our share of foibles and flaws, we had our wars (along with other shameful acts) and we were filled with as much hubris as any conscious being. We were conceived by the titans as a sort of intermediary between themselves and the lesser races, in an effort to help the two parties understand each other better. What instead transpired was a massive rift within the Kendoku society, brought about by various factions that each thought they knew best how to shepherd, guide and teach the lesser races. Much blood was spilled over this and when we looked at what we had done to ourselves the outcome had been clear: we were no more fit to influence the Dothiks, Gnomlins, Ethulin and especially (our progeny) the humans than the titans or anyone else. Indeed, whether the lesser races sought indirect inspiration from the gods or chose to forge their own path it could certainly have been no worse than for us to impose our own bias and prejudices upon them. They would have to make their own mistakes and, hopefully, learn from them without destroying themselves as we nearly did. As a result, the entirety of the Kendoku people pledged to never again meddle in the affairs of cultures that were less evolved than their own. We would have to be content to wait and watch and record their stories for posterity. And thus I do so here and now.
There are a seemingly infinite number of tales I could relate to you, aside from those regarding the titans or the gods, of which I am forbidden to speak. How does one choose? Which stories have lasting meaning and interest? What poignant lesson do I wish to convey? Who should be the focus of such a grand narrative? Where does one begin? Do I speak of the Ethulin genocide? Should I elucidate upon the War of the Dragons? Should I shed light upon the subjugation of the N’mari? Do I wish to tell you of the Great Resource War that occurred within the Zir? Or perhaps I might like to elaborate upon more optimistic fare, such as the building of the Gnomlin university, the unification of the Deepdark or even the discovery of the Innerworlds?
Given the interconnected nature of events, I feel it would be unfair to highlight any one particular individual, despite his importance in the overall scheme of things. Though many could undoubtedly relate to the struggles of such a person, it would certainly limit the point of view. Likewise, it would be imprudent to record the occurences for only a given era, as this would leave questions as to what came before and what happened after. And yet one does not wish to give a voluminous dissertation outlining the history of Dreganos in its entirety, for such a task would be overly daunting, tedious in its detail and drearily incomprehensible in its scope.
Thus I have chosen the fall of Diathilos (that great and sprawling empire that stretched across the main continent of the eastern hemisphere) as my subject for this chronicle. But before I continue, allow me to explain my reasoning for this choice of such a seemingly maudlin topic. Diathilos was the first, and quite possibly the most grandiose, example of civilization to come to pass on the surface of Dreganos. From little more than a collection of wandering hunters and gatherers came the pinnacle of society, a culture to be hailed and the greatest testament to the spirit of accomplishment ever to be achieved at that time. It was a massive endeavor that came together quickly and produced ample rewards for all. Unfortunately, it sowed the seeds of its own downfall almost from its inception. Still, its presence was felt across the entire continent and the repercussions of its collapse rippled around the world for centuries to come. Of course, nature abhors a vacuum and thus Brynthonia was born to fill that vacuum of wealth and power, but that is a tale for another time.
The story of Diathilos is indeed all-encompassing, spanning three of the five ages of Dreganos’ official history, beginning in the Age of Nations, carrying on through the Age of Discovery and ending for the most part in the Age of War. The personages involved in its life, death and legacy are manifold, from those who lived in its gilded streets before the days of its fall, to those that witnessed its terrible societal cataclysm. Lest we not forget the individuals and entities that took advantage of its helpless state (and later its absence) as well as those who wished to romanticize and record the legend of its passing. All manner of people were seen to have been affected by the existence --and later, non-existence-- of Diathilos.
And thus, with our background established and our purpose stated, we may begin our story, which I have entitled The Twelve Rings of the Emperor. While one may find this phrase unduly pompous and enigmatic, I must confess that it was indeed my intention to make it so. This group of words held great significance to a chosen few who had actual knowledge of their definition. Over time, that meaning became lost and confused, mysterious and distorted. Some took it upon themselves to discover what lay behind the phrase while others simply ignored it, putting it down to no more than rumor or legend. But some believed they knew the truth, and certain individuals committed their life and a great deal of resources to uncovering the layers of Diathilos’ dark past and solving the riddle of the Twelve Rings of the Emperor...