The Year of the Exile is the greatest event in The History of Atheus. Every child knows it, in part because of the rhyme:
"Aetius the Great, he was very smart.
He took the world, and it he divided.
The savage's plans he did shrewdly thwart,
with a sacrifice of his own true blood."
Aetius Marcius Sabinus was his name, and he hailed from the then small nation of Kathia. He would play a great role in the Year of the Exile, and thus everyone knows his name, everyone looks up to him, everyone looks to him as a symbol of the power of humans. Of course, in equal parts do the other races, the barbarians, hate him and loathe him, for he was the one who forced them into the west and had subjected them to the horrors of the Territory Wars.
Most people think, however arrogantly, that the Year of the Exile did in fact happen in one year. This idea is in part because of the calendar, with the time before the Year of the Exile being called Before Exile (BE), time during YE, and time after Post Exile (PE), with the Year of the Exile itself being exactly one year in length. Though the scholars who know that it took longer than a year do bicker and argue over the actual length, general consensus dictates that it took about a half century for the actual events to take place. The public's Year is actually the last year, where the final battles took place.
The Birth of Racism
The human world, before the exile, consisted mainly of the flat-lands in the east. Of course, it was not all flatland, with numerous patches of forests covering the landscape. It was a highly divided land, with numerous nations composed of, usually, one race. The elves took the forests, the dwarves took the mines, the goblins and humans took the farmlands, and the orcs took what was left. Of course, this was not an ironfound rule, with many exceptions, but for the majority of instances this was true.
For a time, everything was peaceful. Well, relatively peaceful. There were, as with any nations, the typical wars and conflicts. In a broad sense, however, everything was good. Then things began to change.
It began with the elves. The elves had a tenuous arrangement with the other races. They would let loggers come to their forests if the loggers only cut the trees that the elves gave them permission to. Some elven nations decided that it was no longer in their best interest to supply lumber to the other nations, and they cut off loggers from entering their nation. This more extremist idea of such radical preservation of the forest started taking hold across the entire race. More and more elven nations began to cut off the lumber supply.
As with any economy, the price of wood started increasing. Some elves did continue to sell lumber, and there were some other races with control of forests, but the combination of these two things did little to keep lumber in the markets and to keep the prices down. This annoyed everyone, and soon, jokes about tree-hugger elves began circulating. That is how it starts, racism. With a couple of jokes.
The next domino to fall was the dwarves. The high prices on wood inhibited their progress in their mines. They needed strong wood planks to shore up mine tunnels, and they could not get the supply they needed for the progress they could make. Thus, they got less ores from the mines, and thus, they couldn't trade as much. In fact, the trading of ores trickled to a stop. As the elves did not and do not need metal or ore, this did not effect them, and they saw little reason because of this to resupply others with lumber.
Humans looked at this, and they did not see the connection between the elves' lumber and the dwarves' ore. Humanity, in general, was a surface people, and for the most part did not know how a mining operation works. They were ignorant farmers, they knew not besides the plow. They saw the dwarves as little better than the isolationist elves. The elves loved their trees more than they loved trade ties. The dwarves love their metals more than they loved alliances. Humans started to look upon the elves and the dwarves as selfish peoples, who betrayed humanity because of their petty materialism.
The goblins were next on the list. Their technique of making magic weapons- a service only the goblins can provide- required either the metals the dwarves sold or the lumber the elves sold. Without wood or ore they could no longer produce magical weapons as fast. That is, unless the person wanted a bone or a stone knife. Crudely made, of course, as civilization had long since forgotten the technique.
A third race had failed humanity. The only one left was the orcs, and they were an easy race to hate. Their culture preached violence. An orcish nation is next to nonexistent. An orcish tribe, wandering about, in a constant state of warfare, killing whoever they came to for supplies, that was existent. Having nothing but combat in their lives, it seemed the orcs were but brute beasts. The average human could not see the depth of culture the orcs could possibly have had because to see it was to almost certainly be killed.
Humanity thus saw themselves alone in the world. The rest of the world became different from them beyond the mere physical differences, and even if the elves restored themselves to a more moderate position and started the sale of lumber again it would make little difference. The humans had set themselves down the road of racism.
The Battle of the Burn
While this racism grew, war came to Atheus. A period of death like none before. The exact cause is unknown, as the very first battle is unknown, but the major contributer seems to be a mob mentality. Nations saw that other nations were in war, and so they felt that war was a viable thing for them as well. Another contributing factor was the aforementioned racism, with humanity starting to realize that killing these other races was acceptable was they were lesser than humans.
Key in these wars was the Battle of the Burn, a day that has lived in infamy, a day which decided how a race was thought of.
It was goblins versus humans in the battle. The exact sides no longer matter, as well as the reasons for the conflict. What matters is the Battle itself.
It wasn't truly a battle. It was an ambush. A massive human army, the largest the humans could muster, had been advancing on a goblin fort, not considering that the goblin army could possibly be elsewhere but holed up behind their walls. Using a magical javelin that they had crafted, using techniques that have long been forgotten in the modern day, the goblins initiated the attack. As the goblins poured in from either side, the javelin soared through the air in the perfect arc, ending in the middle of the humans. Arcs of flames erupted from the weapon as it pierced a soldier's flesh, roaring out with a curious clapping sound, as if the air itself had been burnt to nothingness. Then, the implosion, and the center of the human army crumbled. Lacking leadership- that is, leadership that wasn't awed and dumbfounded- the humans were slaughtered. Not one human soldier got away. At the end of the day, the ratio of human corpses to goblin corpses was 20:1.
The battle, however, was not over. The army might be dead, but the army's nation was wide upon for conquest. After the ambush, the goblins marched towards a human town, and burnt it to ashes. They put to the torch a total of two towns and one city before the humans, their backs soundly broken, and lacking any kind of possibility of retaliation, surrendered to whatever terms the goblins could come up with.
The two nations were small, in a small corner of the world no one cared about. But word spread, of how the goblins decimated a nation, of how the diabolical goblin used deception to achieve such horrible atrocities. With each retelling, the tales got worse and worse, until everywhere, a human would say to his friend, "Look, there's a goblin. Don't do business with him. Remember the Battle of the Burn. It'll swindle you."
All a goblin was from that point on was a manipulative devil who paid no attention to honor or morals. The honor part proved key: the religion Trianarianism has a deity who holds honor and virtue over all others. The goblins, said the Trirex, head priest of Trianarianism, existence was actively insulting one of their deities. The goblins are evil.
The racism against the non-humans began getting stronger and stronger, especially now with a religion supporting it. It seemed it would take very little to nudge the world to active discrimination.
Kathia's Rise and Fall
Kathia was born a small nation, surrounded on all sides by elves and dwarves and goblins and orcs. That is, it did have some human neighbors at the beginning. By the time the buildup to the Year of the Exile came about, Kathia had grown fat on military conquest. During the beginning of the buildup, it reached a point of peace, called the Prosperitas Kathiae (translated: The Prosperity of Kathia). Shirking many military campaigns, except for a couple required ones (those thrice-cursed Elves of the Slyphnos Forest were really asking to get their faces stomped on), Kathia grew strong culturally and financially and politically, not just militarily.
It was during this time that overpopulation set in. Kathia's militaristic nature, though not as severe as the orcs, had kept the death rate high enough to match the birth rate. The lack of war simply meant that the population size started increasing. Kathia's boundary's started feeling cramped. Immigration to another country was very rare, so people simply moving was not an option. War was an option, but once again it wasn't an option: the populace had been getting tired of war, and the Prosperitas Kathiae had given them a taste for peace. With the culture spreading because of this, people were happier with peace than without it.
Soon, the arts started taking on a more somber form. They started drawing paintings of the overcrowded cities, the abandonment of the countryside as people couldn't find new places to farm, ancient forests put to the axe to make room for housing and agriculture. The Prosperitas Kathiae soon ended, but it was not replaced by mere war. They were past the point where that could even have kept the population from further growth.
Aetius Marcius Sabinus
Aetius Marcius Sabinus was born in the human land of Kathia during the tail end of the buildup. He grew up with the racism, with the goblin slaughter, with the overpopulation. He came from an ordinary family. Strange, for such an extraordinary man, but his did mean he lived with the overcrowded cities.
He grew through his life a man of ambition. Except for the fact he did not know what his ambition was, what path to pursue. That all changed when he met a man who claimed to witness the Battle of the Burn- which was in fact a lie, and instead got his story second-hand from a secondary source. He told the young Aetius of the battle, and that was when he knew what he would need to do.
At that time Kathia was a non-hereditary monarchy of sorts. Two men were elected to become king. Aetius was determined to be that man. He started blaming the other races for Kathia's overpopulation and other such problems, especially the goblins. He said that this weakening of Kathia was a part of the goblin's plan of destroying them. As well as blaming others, he promised to provide the people with what he called Novus Domus: New Houses.
It worked. He rose to the kingship with another man, a more peaceful man. Aetius could not abide him, hating every pacifist word he uttered, every conciliatory breathe. Aetius burned for what he knew must be done: conquest.
He used blackmail to convince his fellow king to let him go to war against a neighboring goblin nation. Aetius used to Battle of the Burn to get his people bloodthirsty, used their all ready burning racism, used the promise of turning the goblin's territory into Novus Domus, and then he took the armies himself to war, leaving his fellow king to keep Kathia running in his absence.
In that first war, Aetius found he had a gift for conquest. The first battle was decidedly in his favor. Each of the following battles also was in his favor, with the ease of conquest growing as the goblin's numbers and morale was sapped. Finally, after a revenge razing of a town- "Remember the Battle of the Burn!"- he came to the capitol.
It was a long, hard-fought battle. Aetius led the charge to the gates himself, and helped with thei battering ram as it pounded and pounded the gates down. They fell; the army charged; the capitol fell.
Aetius gained much glory that day, as well as huge amounts of political influence. He told the goblins that if by a month there was a single goblin left Kathia's new territory, they would be killed. During that month, he started transporting humans into the territory to repopulate it. He gave towns to retired veterans, he gave parcels of lands to Kathian nobility, he turned the new land into Kathia.
In the same manner, he attacked the nearby elven nation, conquering them and kicking them out and replacing the elves with humans. He returned home at the front of his men with his citizens shouting his name, loving him and his mission.
Then came a political moment. Aetius' fellow king died on the cusp of that victory. Some few, some cynical few, whispered poison, that Aetius had hired an assassin, but they could not whisper loudly enough for anyone else to hear or risk lynching. Those few whisperers, however, would have been right.
Aetius took the opportunity to make a very risky political move. He proposed to the people that he would be the sole king. The people adored him and his glory enough to love this proposal, and wholeheartedly accept it. In the privacy of the chambers of the palace he did not need to share with anyone now, Aetius smiled.
The wars he had done before he continued at a faster pace. Growing old, he could no longer lead the armies himself, but he gave the orders of conquer and kick out the sub-humans to the generals that took his stead. Kathia's territory grew at an even faster rate. As young men started joining the armies at a faster rate, seeing firsthand how they had grown Kathia's cities from, in essence, shitholes, to places where one could proud to be a Kathian.
Nearby non-human nations got the message. They knew that the tides of war would turn towards them eventually. They preemptively fled their homes for another, safer, place to live. Nearby nations as well got on board. The imperialistic ones saw that they could expand their borders easily through this means, the defensive ones knew that bigger borders were the only true defense for other big nations, the overpopulated ones copied Kathia's reasons. The world as a whole started kicking out nonhumans.
Aetius Marcius Sabinus died of old age before he could see what he had started finish, but his name took on new titles. Aetius the Great, they called him. Aetius the Divider, they called him. Aetius the Vengeance, they called him. His name became associated with the Battle of the Burn- a positive association, as he had got humanity's revenge for that brutal day.
After around a half century, the first three decades of which Aetius Marcius Sabinus lived, almost all the barbarian races were gone from eastern Atheus, a wave of racism and wars and exile pushing them west. Humanity was not done, however. The racism that swept them to remove the nonhumans had them hunting every scrap of wilderness for the barbarians. Eventually, they gave up the search, and move to other topics.
The land of Atheus has its monsters. Dragons, minotaurs, cyclops, all of which in general are solitary species and thus not counted as a race even if they bear intelligence. Humanity decided to rid itself of the burden of monsters. It took another decade to, for the powerful monsters, persuade, and, for the weaker monsters, kill to make Atheus a divided land. One half is, if you ask a human, the evil side, and one half is the good side.
This entire period of history has had a profound effect on the arts and culture. Killing and exiling four other races and a multitude of monsters has that effect. Paintings depict it, songs proclaim it, stories tell it. And in most of those art pieces, the name and figure of Aetius Marcius Sabinus is shown large and proud. In front of the Kathian palace is a giant, 20 foot tall statue of him of him riding a horse over goblin backs. But perhaps the thing that could demonstrate the Year of the Exile's influence, and the influence of Aetius himself, is the fact that they use it as the basis for their calender.
And the rest, as they say, is history.