This rather large island of Calabria is centered in the important shipping lanes between the West and the East. Over the centuries, many races of folk have made this island their home, and today the Great Noble Houses struggle to control this one small place of a much greater world.
Age of High Magic
Scholars, theologians, and other learned men are divided on what exactly the dawn of time was like. However, many agree that centuries, if not millennia ago, the world was ruled by the heavy hand of wizard-kings called the Autarchs. The Autarchs were able to conjure forth spells that modern-day magicians can only dream of. They forged empires that ran across the continents. Often the fate of an army could be decided with but a single spell.
The legends say that the Autarchs used their magic to build citadels and fortresses on a scale that would boggle modern-day engineers. Some accounts describe the Autarchs as wise and benevolent rulers, who used their great power to create a golden age of prosperity, when all peoples wanted for nothing and none were treated cruelly or unjustly. Other tales paint a different picture — one of tyrants lording over a myriad of slaves, with dire and unthinkable torments for any who dared oppose their unquestionable rule.
How long this age lasted is uncertain, and exactly how it ended is even more uncertain. Perhaps the Autarchs “transcended” this mundane existence and moved on to a “higher plane”. Or perhapes the oppressed populace rebelled against their cruel masters. One theory supposes that the Autarchs’ magic summoned forth a force so powerful, so awful, that they were unable to contain it, and it devastated the lands and laid their great civilization low. Conjecture aside, all that remains of the Age of High Magic are cryptic ruins and some very rare books printed in unintelligible scripts of forgotten languages.
Age of Reason
What is clearly a matter of record is the rise of the current empires throughout the Known World. Today, the Great Noble Houses command powerful armies and naval fleets. The fickle and erudite nature of sorcery has been foresworn in favor of the simple brutality of sword, musket, and shield.
People today believe themselves to live in a glorious age of wonders. The invention of the printing press has made books cheaper and more available to the greater public. New sailing ships and navigation equipment have given merchants and explorers a reach greater than ever known before. And, the distillation and preparation of gunpowder is changing the shape of warfare, while at the same time enabling mining and engineering projects on a grand scale.
In fact, gunpowder is one of the more dramatic changes. Formerly, the knight in full armor was the “ultimate war machine”, second only to the rare and unusual warrior-wizard. However, a bullet can pierce even the best plate mail. And though fireballs and lightning bolts may fly far and true, it takes long years of tedious study to become an accomplished wizard, whereas even an ignorant peasant can pull a trigger.
Magic is not unknown — but it is not widespread. Few have the patience or presence of mind to cast spells, and those that do jealously guard their secrets. The language barriers between disparate geographic regions don’t help, either — not to mention the cryptic ciphers often found in books of yore.
The Known Lands and the Continent of Calabria
Calabria’s first inhabitants are lost in the mists of time. Surely a great race lived there once – in the forgotten corners of the land, monuments have been left to their passing.
Thousands of years must have passed before the Great Houses made their marks on the land, beginning as mere immigrants upon the landscape from the rest of the world. The first to appear were the cunning Rinaldi. They were swiftly followed by the Doloreaux and Avoirdupois then Bisclavret emerged as the newest of the Great Houses. None can say from whence they originally came and this has been a source of some debate. Navigators and scholars agree that the earth is round, and that there are many lands yet to be discovered beyond the horizon.