In an age before history, when the Earth was home to mythic empires long forgotten, the oceans cradled not nine continents, but ten. The island empire of Atlantis was at once the grandest and most precarious of the ancient civilizations, for while their knowledge of technology and magic dwarfed that of their contemporaries, they were also the least populous of the empires.
For a time, the Atlanteans tried to share their superior learning with any who would accept it. But while they freely offered their methods of medicine, agriculture and such beneficent arts, the people of Atlantis refused to divulge the secrets of anything that could be used as a weapon. It was these darker secrets that the empires --who warred as empires would for millennia to come-- most desired.
The leaders of the empires decried the selfishness of the Atlanteans, accusing them of keeping their greatest advances to themselves, advances that would let the people live forever in perfect happiness, if only the Atlanteans would share. Like so many through the ages, people believed the lies of their trusted leaders. The Atlanteans were mysterious and largely isolated, and the manifest superiority of the arts they did share made it easy to believe that even greater marvels lay concealed within the island continent.
Several of the empires joined in alliance against Atlantis. While the wonders of Atlantis surpassed all others, the other empires were not without their own. Riding mighty sea serpents and ships of steel, flying on the backs of dragons and nimble flying machines, the attackers besieged Atlantis.
But they found that Atlantis was peerless in the craft of war as it was in all others. The continent's defenders repelled the invaders, and an impregnable shield of force was erected around the continent. The war was over before it had truly begun.
The alliance of empires dissolved in the face of their foe's apparent invulnerability. Yet one empire refused to admit defeat, and encouraged their own scientists and alchemists down a path that would prove disastrous for the entire planet.
In an ironic twist, they used the biotechnology taught to them by the Atlanteans themselves in more peaceful times to create a plague of unprecedented virulence. The scourge adapted quickly to all attempts to create an antidote, and resisted all attempts at magical remedy. It infected nations in days, scything through the Earth's population like a field of wheat.
Soon, the true extent of the scourge became apparent. Madness was the terrible fruit of the Atlanteans' perverted gift, with death coming as a welcome relief. Victims were stripped of all compassion and inhibition, replaced with the burning need to destroy. A semblance of reason remained, in that the infected could still use their technology and magic, and work together if it meant greater destruction. Entire armies suddenly turned on the populations they were supposed to protect, infecting them in turn where they were not killed outright. Terrible weapons were turned against their creators, pulverizing the great cities so completely that later generations would find no inkling that they had ever existed.
Locked behind their impassable shield, Atlantis could only watch in growing horror. Even then, they knew that it was only a matter of time before, somehow, the plague reached Atlantis. The efforts of the entire civilization were bent to finding a solution to the seemingly insoluble problem. The Atlanteans were working against time; even their shield could not withstand the combined wrath of a world gone mad for long, and soon the infected would have no remaining targets.
The solution was nearly as terrible as the problem, but the alternative was the total eradication of humanity. The magical field of the Earth was bound to the planet itself, but was not generated by it. The theory was that they could separate this field from the Earth and bind it instead to Atlantis itself Using the font of unimaginable power, they could tear the continent from it's moorings and outwait the plague beyond the Earth itself, in outer space. The Earth's magic would also provide the means to sustain the inhabitants of Atlantis in the airless depths. But the Atlanteans' salvation would be a double edged sword --the Earth would be left without magic. While this meant that weapons relying on mystic energy would no longer function, it also meant that mages would be unable to perform the simplest cantrip, for good or ill. It also meant that creatures of magic would die.
Despite the objections, the plan was enacted. The ritual was arduous, and the immense machine constructed to house the essence of the Earth's magic was delicate in the extreme. In the end, the process succeeded, even as the attacks by the madmen outside worsened. Amid an earthquake that shook the planet to it's core, the entire continent of Atlantis rose into the sky. Even those attackers present to witness the event were stupefied.
The shockwaves from the departure only added to the massive orgy of annihilation that had engulfed the Earth. Despite the loss of magic, the cataclysmic earthquakes and the technological weapons were more than enough to reduce humanity to barbarism and erase any trace of the once-great civilizations. The Atlanteans had every expectation that all of humanity on Earth would be eradicated, if not by the war, then by the plague itself. They took up orbit between the Earth and Mars, there to wait until the plague had exhausted itself, for it affected only humanity and would die without a host; animals could not even act as carriers.
When they returned to Earth thousands of years later, they were shocked to find humanity flourishing. The tribes were primitive, but they seemed wholly sane and free of the disease. There were even signs of a return to civilization in some parts of the world.
All this was discovered with sensors and divination. It was feared that the primitives could still be carriers for the disease. If so, a return for Earth would mean the end of Atlantis, possibly the end of the Earth itself if Atlantis in it's madness used it's own terrible weapons.
Reluctantly, Atlantis decided to leave the Earth to it's own devices. With the magic of Earth at their command, it would be an easy matter to travel to other stars. With the Earth denied them, the Atlanteans' spirits lifted at the thought of exploring the galaxy.
And so they did, for countless millennia. The continent of Atlantis soared the spaceways like some wondrous bird of myth. The Atlanteans encountered untold splendours during the sojourns, not least of which were several nonhuman races. Not all planets possessed an aura of magic as did Earth --in fact, such worlds exceedingly rare-- so these races were awed to find an entire continent without any apparent means of atmosphere containment or propulsion suddenly floating above their worlds, or alongside their starships.
By and large, these encounters were peaceful, particularly in the wake of several incidents that proved beyond a doubt the effacity --and superiority-- of the Atlanteans weaponry, particularly their magic, which was practically induplicable.
Not all the Atlanteans cared for their vagabond lifestyle. Over the centuries, a number of these splinter groups founded colonies on suitable worlds, primarily the more numerous 'mundane' planets. These separations, as well, were mostly amicable. A number of these colonies eventually became advanced civilizations in their own rights.
Atlantis returned to Earth every so often, to check up on the burgeoning population and nations. They were well pleased at the seemingly total recovery from the disastrous plague. The Earth retained no memory of the ancient empires, save for scattered legends. Apprehensive that a return would cause more fear than good --and still fearful themselves that the insidious scourge might have survived the ages, as they had-- Atlantis remained apart, until such time as Earth reached for space on it's own. The colonies and their allies did the same.
It was perhaps inevitable that the Atlanteans would one day encounter a race that was both their technological equal and an implacable enemy. The Demons were that race. Their black ships came from the void between galaxies, boiling out of the starless cleft like an uncontainable tempest. Stunned by the unexpected frenzy, and unable to match the power of the black ships, the worlds on the galactic periphery fell quickly.
The battle was soon joined, an alliance of races forming to repel the dark invaders. But the extragalactic armada surpassed them. And for every demon ship destroyed, two more emerged from the void between galaxies.
The Atlantean colonies were separated from the primary thrust of the Demon armada by the worlds of their allies, but they rightly saw that the Demons would not be content with those paltry worlds, and they would not stand idly by in any case.
The addition of the colonial forces tipped the balance of power somewhat in the galactics' favor. The marvelous world-ship itself seemed to be everywhere at once, smiting entire Demon fleets like an angel of vengeance. But still the black tide seemed unstoppable, and the Demons conquered world after world. The miasma of despair began to creep across the galactic worlds. It seemed the only thing keeping the Demons from total victory was the indomitable spirit of the Atlanteans and their colonies.
Then; disaster. The cunning Demons saw that the Atlanteans formed the backbone of their enemies' forces. Destroy the Atlanteans, and the Alliance would be broken. And at the heart of the Atlanteans' sense of self-identity was the memory of their homeworld. Destroy Earth, and the Atlanteans would be broken.
The Demons embarked immediately, but Earth was too far from the main battle lines to be reached quickly or easily. Even so, the Atlanteans discerned the true nature of the Demons' plan almost too late. By the time the plot was uncovered, any worlds or fleets that might have sent aid to the Atlantean homeworld were themselves in peril.
The only vessel capable of traversing the distance in any kind of time was the world-ship Atlantis itself. Amassing a sizeable fleet of the best that could be thrown together in such short notice, Atlantis departed to the aid of it's motherworld.
It was thought that the only chance of defeating the Demon fleet was to give the people of Earth the power to defend themselves. The Atlanteans had learned much in their travels. The Earth's magic could be returned. The world-ship itself could erect a barrier around the Earth that would deflect the planet-killing weapons of the Demons, although they would be unable to prevent landing craft from penetrating. The effort would leave the continent nearly defenceless, unless the nations of Earth could be given the means of their own salvation. The fruits of Atlantean technology would be shared freely, even the terror weapons. The people of Earth would be taught how to harness the newly returned power of magic.
On July 27, 2004, ten years before the Demon fleet, Atlantis returns to Earth.