Vernae is a single egg-shaped island, one hundred and twenty miles long by seventy miles across at itâ€™s widest point. The island can be roughly divided into three regions â€“ the coastal area, which varies from broad, fertile deltas in the south to rugged, unwelcoming fjords in the north; the interior, which is heavily forested; and the mountainous core, where several intimidating peaks rise above the cloud level. The typical climate is temperate, though the very highest peaks are snow-bound for much of the year.
Five hundred years ago, a great war tore through the civilised lands. Appearing as if from nowhere, the demonic Horde pushed the allied armies of Men, Elves and Dwarves from their ancestral homes. After many years of bitter struggle, the ruling Council admitted that the war was lost, and that steps must be taken to preserve some small fragment of the life that had gone before.
A dozen mighty sorcerers, the greatest masters of their arts, pooled their skills and knowledge, and opened three gateways, one in the Elven capital city of Maâ€™Enlanfey, one in the Dwarvish citadel of Grosh Dedrak, and one in the Human metropolis of Annare. The portals were held open for a single hour, and hundreds of soldiers and civilians poured through them to salvation.
At the allotted moment, the gateways closed, and the allied armies prepared for death at the hands of the Horde. Meanwhile, far to the west of the civilised lands, on the uninhabited island of Vernae, three groups of refugees began to build a new kingdom.
Things progressed happily enough for the first few years, until it became clear that Vernae had itâ€™s own mysteries and dangers. The Elves became increasingly aloof from their companions, retreating from the newly-constructed villages. Eventually, as the years passed, they drifted to the mountainous heart of the island, drawn by the lure of the potent natural magic which seeped from the very rock. Without the Elves to mediate, the relationship between the arrogant Humans and the stubborn Dwarves became increasingly unstable. After a decade of difficult diplomacy, the Dwarves abandoned the coastal settlements and retreated inland to the vast forests, where they crafted enormous halls of logs and living trees, replicating the fabled underground citadels of their history.
Centuries passed. The Elves constructed a beautiful city atop the highest mountain on the island, excavating the magical grey rock they called Rualentaâ€™De (Life-Heart of Stone) and using it to build their homes, palaces, guildhouses and statues. Now, they have very little contact with the outside world, turning instead to their stories of Maâ€™Enlanfey and their perfection of the magical arts. Once open and trusting, they have become, over the centuries, insular and self-centred, interested only in their own history, knowledge, and in the acquisition of the mysterious and potent Rualenta’De.
The Dwarves, meanwhile, slowly forgot their ancient rocky homes, and came to love the slow heartbeat of nature in their forest home. Slowly losing their skill at mining, they became expert hunters and trappers, and even cleared the forest from several fertile valleys in order to farm them. The Dwarves, inherently secretive and Clannish, isolated themselves from the other races, and, eventually, from each other. Now, the Dwarven community of Vernae consists of a dozen Clan-Homes, each centred on a vast, single-story wooden warren. The first lesson taught to Dwarven children is that a Dwarf owns ultimate loyalty to his Clan-Home, and no other. Contact between the Clans is rare, though occasional trading takes place with the Humans, while no Dwarf has spoken to an Elf for over two hundred years.
The Humans colonised the coastal regions of the island, creating dozens of villages and, on the southern tip of Vernae, the Human capital of Annare Kol (Memory of Annare). They survive by farming and fishing, occasionally trading with the friendlier Dwarf Clans for meat. There has been no contact with the Elves for generations, and they are blamed by most for the problems between Humans and Dwarves â€“ common knowledge has it that the Elves somehow poisoned the Dwarvesâ€™ minds, leaving the Humans to starve and suffer on the fringes of the island. Human society has declined in the centuries since they arrived on Vernae - corruption, dirty politics and greed are rife, and the unsustainable growth of their population is one of the chief areas of dispute between the Council of Annare Kol and the Dwarven Clan-Home Chiefs.
The party are shipwrecked upon the island, and stunned to discover the inhabitants. Memories of the Horde in the civilised lands have faded after a great hero led the allied armies to a legendary victory. Can the offshoots be re-introduced to their cousins? Would they want to? What would Vernaeâ€™s Elves do to protect their precious Rualentaâ€™De?
For several nights, ominous lights have been seen on the eastern horizon shortly after nightfall. Sages tell that these lights were the harbingers of the Horde â€“ surely, after all these years, the demonic enemy cannot reach Vernae? Can the three races be united to defend their home against the ancient foe? Can they win? And if the battle is hopeless, where else can the refugees go?
Secrets and Lies
What is the secret of the Rualentaâ€™De? A group of Dwarves, intent on regaining their mining heritage, sets out to discover the true nature of the magical rock. What mysterious hold does it have on the Elves? Can it be true that the Elves are excavating the very body of a mighty Earth Elemental, bound to the island for countless millennia?
The people of Annare Kol have lived on Vernae for long enough. A party of adventurers is recruited to undertake the perilous voyage back to their ancestral home, to discover what has become of the Horde, and to the mighty cities and legendary treasure of old.