For millennia untold the world of Gateway existed as a hub of commerce and culture at the intersection of countless planes existence. Beings from a thousand worlds came here to trade goods and services, to exchange the knowledge, to make or break treaties on neutral ground, and to propagate their own faiths and beliefs. Which, if any, species were the native peoples of this world has been lost to time. What is known is that humans made their arrival nearly five thousand years ago as slaves to a powerful and cruel race of planar travellers calling themselves the Il.
Over the next thousand years humans proved themselves to be amongst the Il’s most profitable slave species, intelligent, industrious, and, above all, adaptable. Great numbers of human slaves were brought to Gateway by the Il, to run their settlement and to be sold off to other interested species. Some communities who had long since settled this world opposed its increasing use as a center for interplanar slave trade, in particular the elven kingdoms that had arisen in the wilds of Gateway. Others had differing opinions: the dwarven strongholds beneath the mountains isolated themselves from the affairs of others, meeting in the markets only to trade their metalworks, jewels, and ale for other necessities, the enterprising halflings who controlled many of the other markets despaired that their trading community would fall into conflict over the issue, together with the gnomes who had been the backers for many of their operations, they sought a solution. They found one in the dragonborn, a stoic an ancient race, known for their strength of arms and code of law. A delegation of halflings and gnomes made an overture to the dragonborn communities of Gateway and appointed them as peacekeepers and lawmen. The sale of slaves would be allowed, but the taking of slaves on Gateway would be strictly prohibited and swiftly punished by the dragonborn.
The human slaves, meanwhile, used their time here to interact with every species they met, learning all that they could. Their own gods having perished or been lost to time, they quickly adopted the deities of numerable other pantheons, seeking any source of divine reprieve from their coninued bondage. The gods of whom they had learned, however, proved distant, many had planes or worlds of their own to administer to, others were simply unable or unwilling to provide assistance to their strange new adherants. It is unkown who first introduced humanity to the existence of the abyss, but, in their desperation, a group of human rebels converted their worship to the demons found there. The eyes of the abyss, long blinded to the existence of Gateway were now open. Using their human servants as a conduit, demonic powers began to leak into the world. They warped and bred with their human worshippers in an orgy of blood and depravity creating the first Tieflings who used their new found powers to create a state of escaped slaves. With an apparent answer to their long-ignored prayers, human slaves began to revolt and escape in record numbers, flocking to the growing slave-city of Bael-Turath. Some of the burgeoning populace simply took advantage of the refuge offered from the Il, but the newly established nobility and military had fallen largely to demon worship, and the status offered by engaging in such practices drew many new converts.
It was not long before the growing might of Bael Turath lashed out at its former captors, destroying Il patrols who dared venture close to their desert holdings, and putting smaller Il holdings to the torch before finally turning on the great slave markets that had brought them to this world. Though a powerful and wicked people, most Il recognized that their presence on Gateway was not strong enough to contain the power they had accidently created, most Il slavers fled, those that did not were butchered, the great market-city of Il-Prael was put to the sword. Then, their captors and tormentors finally gone, the former slaves turned their wrath against the other denizens on the world. The raized settlements of several other species known to have made extensive use of human slaves, enslaving their populations in turn and dragging them back to Bael-Turath to be used in debased ceremonies and rituals.
The dragonborn, from the great fortress-city of Arkhosia, looked on in horror. Their leaders met in secret council, ashamed that their efforts to maintain peace had allowed them to justify their inaction against the Il, an inaction which bred such desperation amongst the humans as to lead them to this grim end. Their tolerence of one evil had led them to one far worse. Their first action was to gather the remaining human populations outside Bael-Turath and provide them with a home and sanctuary near Arkhosia, to these peoples, they conveyed their remorse for the millenium of imprisonment the humans had endured under their watch. Their second action was to confront the armies of Bael-Turath. To the tieflings leading these armies, they expressed their sorrow, but demanded the cesation of violence. The tieflings, under command of General Kaul were unwilling to broker a peace, threatening to destroy any force that dared oppose it as they forged themselves a new world. Having failed to come to terms, the War of Uninterrupted Sorrow began, quickly engulfing Gateway in a tide of blood.
The war raged for more than a hundred years, the forces of Bael-Turath and Arkhosia locked in terrible mortal conflict. The dwarves barred the doors of their mountain halls, unwilling to see the bloodshed spill into their kingdom, going unseen by the other races for nearly a century. The halflings, fearing retribution, hid under the aegis of Arkhosia, many of them living alongside the humans in the new Arkhosian protecterate. Their partners, the gnomes, largely fled back to the feywild, smaller communities choosing to stay on Gateway went to live amongst the elves. The elven kingdoms, now ancient and unchanging, watched from their wood and wept for the folly of the younger races. It seemed, for a time, that neither side would be able to win the war, and that its end would come only with the annhilation of both peoples. The turning point came, at last, with the Battle of the Scorched Wood, where General Kaul directed his forces in the burning of a sacred elven glade. The elves quickly sided with Arkhosia, mustering an army that crushed Kaul’s forces while the dragonborn marched on Bael-Turath itself.
With Arkhosian forces at its walls and the elven army marching south to join them, Kaul pulled what little was left of his forces inside the city and ordered them to prepare to repel the inevitable siege. Having seen to the city’s defenses, Kaul called the remaining tiefling lords to council, and they sequestered themselves in Bael-Turath’s keep. There they resigned all hope of military victory, turning instead to dark rituals to convene with the powers of the abyss. What promises they offered the dark powers with which they communed and whether they knew just what it was they were being instructed to do is unkonown, but in the fourth week of the siege, a terrible bargain was struck. The lords each gathered their children in the dark fane at the heart of the keep and slaughtered them, tracing infernal runes on the floor in the blood of their sacrifices, they laid open the planar barrier separating Gateway from the abyss.
It is important to recognize that demons, unlike nearly all deities, good or evil, or even the devils of the Nine Hells, have little interest in ruling anything, they do not have a code or creed to which they wish to subject others, they do not truly bargain for souls or power, their only driving desire is to destroy everything, anything else they may do is secondary to that. The mightiest of demons may hold a domain and lesser demons to his will, he may make plans, and direct followers, but the nature of the abyss is raw entropic chaos, and his plans, ultimately, are to unleash that destructive force.
And so, Gateway’s material plane was open to the abyss, and in a fraction of an instant the world was changed forever. Gateway was ripped from its place in the cosmos, severing nearly all of its connections to other planes. Some of these would eventually come into contact with Gateway once more, others would be forevermore separated from this plane. On Gateway’s material plane, earthquakes, tidal waves, and volcanoes tore apart the land. Portions of the main continent were swallowed by the raging sea, and vast portions collapsed into rifts and canyons that tore apart the earth. Inside the unholy fane a gaping maw of black fire creeped open, spilling forth fel energies, as the demon host on the other side slowly crept into the world. There are a number of accounts of what happened next: perhaps Kaul, realizing at last the horrors he and his fellows had unleashed in their rage, sacrificed himself to destroy the portal, the dragonborn tell tale of a band of Arkhosian heroes led by their beloved prince, who, finally breaching the keep, beat back the emerging host moments before the world was ripped apart, or, perhaps, the demon host with its choas unbound destroyed its own connection to the world. Whatever the case, Gateway, though spared, would never be the same.
While the physical effects of the Day of Doors, as it came to be known, were immediately apparent, the consquences of its planar isolation were quickly felt as well. In the face of utter ruin, Gateway’s populace screamed millions of desperate prayers to deities unable to receive them. Priests and clerics in their moment of need found themselves powerless to aid their people. The power of the gods, however, is in the belief of those that worship them, and in those fateful moments, the concentrated power of prayer birthed a new heaven unto Gateway and its own pantheon of proto-deities. While the nature of the prayer that created them rendered a number of similarities between the old and new deities, the new gods were entities unto themselves, and eager to reveal themselves to their mortal petitioners. Aware of their tenuous dominion over Gateway, the new pantheon launched directly into their duties, each hungrily working on fulfilling the various tenants of his or her divine portfolio. Gateway’s celestial realms remain unique to this world and the gods that dwell there remain incredibly active in the day-to-day affairs of their clergy and notable followers; while some may scheme to draw worship from Gateway’s other gods, none dare abandon their duties for fear that they will undone just as they were once made.
Following the Day of Doors, tiefling power was broken, and a majority of Bael-Turath’s population was dead or fleeing. Arkhosia, having lost much of its army, with its enemy, and the world itself, in ruin, went into decline. The elves returned to their forest homes and, for a time, enjoyed a new golden age of their culture before a wicked sect led near half their population into betraying their fellows. Brief but bloody religious civil war followed until the followers of the spider queen, Lolth, were cursed and driven underground. Several hundred years later the race split again, this time quietly and peacably, as half again of their people returned to the shining cities of the rediscovered feywild, which, along with the shadowfell had finally returned to alignment with Gateway. The elves and their departing breathren, the eladrin, largely went into seculsion, amicable to the other races but rarely leaving their forest and fey homes to interact with them. As the world tore itself apart, many of the ancestral dwarf halls were lost, a few mighty mountain kingdoms remain, but much of the dwarf race decided against continued isolation, instead migrating outwards to join the growing human and halfling civilizations. The remaining tiefling populace eked out a living on the edges of soceity, hated by nearly all with whom they came into contact. Over the years much of the power of the demon blood has burnt out in their bloodline, but visible marks of their infernal heritage remain, subjecting them to continued prejudice from the other civilized races.
Kingdoms rise and fall, as the ages turn, some in peace, some in war, as time marches inexorably forward on Gateway. Its solitude in the planes drawing out for an era, unchanging, until now…
For three centuries the human empire of Nerath ruled in peace from the Sorrowborn Archipelago to the Cloudtouched Mountains. Their capital on the Harshan Peninsula was a beacon of civilization, espousing trade, learning, and a tolerence for all manner of race and religion. Alas, no empire is immune to the ravages of time and, as with all things, Nerath came to an end. It’s final king, known popularly as Galan the Dreamer, married a powerful eladrin enchantress, a noble in exile from the feywild it was said. They had three children: the eldest, a girl, they named Jada, who grew into a warlock of considerable power, the second child, a boy, they called Ket, was known for his love of the wild places of the world, the youngest, also a boy, was called Tyl, he gre lithe and beautiful, taking after the looks of his mother, and had a keen hand at the harp.
When Galan passed nearly one hundred years ago, his edict of succession split Nerath into three separate kingdoms to be ruled by his three children. Jada the eldest, was given the capital of the old empire and the peninsula itself, the seat of old Nerath’s power, she called it Jadal. To Ket went all the lands from the foothills to the mountains, rich in forests and largely untamed, a kingdom he named Wildhome To the youngest went the islands of the archipelago, quiet, lovely, and steeped in mystery, he named his kingdom for the isles upon which it was situated, calling it Sorrowborn.
The three kingdoms existed in peace for years, and their citizens hoped to continue the prosperity of their former kingdom. Then, inexplicably, Jada moved against Ket, marshaling an army of wizards and marching on his forest hall. The goliath and shifter tribes came down from the mountains joining the elves of the forest and a band of dwarves who had set up in the foothills. The people of the wilds, having come to appreciate Ket’s rule moved to his defense. When word reached his island palace, Tyl gathered his navy to support his brother against their sister’s sudden aggression. By the time his ships reached Jada’s shores, however, Ket’s forces were already faring badly. Jada eventually revealed her goal- not her brother’s kingdom, but her brother himself. In return for his own person, Jada agreed to the withdrawl from and cessation of hostilities toward his land and its people. While her forces withdrew to the border of Wildhome, their continued presence made many of its inhabitants uneasy and some chose to flee to Sorrowborn. For several years Tyl’s navy continued to harass Jadal’s coastline, blockading ports and capturing ships, as Tyl demanded the release of his brother. Gathering her war wizards, Jada summoned a storm that decimated the Sorrowborn fleet, and quickly offered her youngest sibling terms- return to his island kingdom or face open war. Reluctantly, Tyl agreed and a tenuous treaty was established between the two kingdoms…
Your characters served on one of Tyl’s ships sometime between the fall of Wildhome and the signing of the Treaty of the Reef. Under the command of the half-orc, Captain Douven Staul, they sailed as sanctioned pirates, working to curb Jadal’s violent expansion. Staul, was an affable man, hude in stature and heart, beloved of his crew and kingdom. What brought you to serve for a time is up to you, perhaps you were a refugee volunteer from Wildhome, perhaps one of Tyl’s citizenry, or even one of Jada’s subjects ill-content with her war-mongering. After the treaty was signed, your crew slowly drifted apart, you may have returned to your home, or gone on to settle the burgeoning port town of Pirate’s Rest with your once captain. Whatever the case, word has reached you from Staul’s wife, Staul is missing and in need of his friends once more…