The Plague of Issarea
History of Issarea
Most knowledge of the First Age comes from the tales of bards, therefore lacking any coherence or credibility. Written records from those days are few and far between, and even those that do exist are scribed in the Old Tongue, decipherable by only the wisest of sages. Still, there are many myths so widespread that most Issareans take them as fact or at least hints of the truth.
The land, as it stands today, is said to be about two thousand years old. In the days before it was formed, the Creator-god, Logos, entrusted the shaping of the world to five Archangels, each of whom was given a legion of lesser Angels as cohorts and charged with a specific aspect of creation.
It is said that Logos gave his Archangels detailed instructions on how to shape the earth and its people in order to ensure an infinitely beautiful, joyful world. However, the Archangels were overcome with pride and sought to insert their own creativity into the world, thereby defiling Logos’ vision with countless imperfections. Thus was born evil, the willful disobedience of perfect beauty and truth for self-gain. The Archangels’ disobedience cost them greatly, for Logos stripped them of their immortality. Their life became forever linked to the world they had tainted with their own pride: they would forever to need draw from the life force of the earth in order to keep themselves alive.
Because the birth of Issarea was tainted with pride, evil can still be found in all aspects of creation—but it is most noticeable in the sins and sufferings of men.
The life of the Archangels relies on the sacrifice of their creation. This sacrifice, for the past two-thousand years, has been demanded of the people of Issarea. If they cannot provide for the Archangels, then the tribute must be taken from the land in the form of natural disaster. Throughout the First Age, the villages and towns that make up the realm (known as cottings) have developed around the geographical locales that serve as sacrificial altars for the Archangels, and the citizens have developed regular customs as demanded by their particular regional god.
For centuries, the people have lived in servile fear, toiling at the land in order to appease the wrath of the gods. As such, most people cannot be said to practice religion; rather, they are enslaved by it. Over the years, the various cottings have erected priesthoods that act as intercessors between the gods and the people, but even these priests, some of whom interact directly with the gods, still worship in fear.
The most notable tale of the wrath of the Archangels began in the 1599th year of the First Age. That year, the people of Issarea, under the leadership of a halfling paladin named Sir Daring, decided to cease making offering to the Angel of Life, Curatio, who demands the first born son of every house. Ever since that day—for the past four hundred years—the once thriving eastern grasslands have slowly been drained of life, turning into a vast desert that threatens to engulf the whole realm.
The First Age ended shortly after the events surrounding Sir Daring when King Issarel I founded the city of Freeborn, promising that its citizens would be forever free of the fearful influence of the deities. This is when Issarea was first given a name and some semblance of unity. Even today, the city of Freeborn commands such economic and military power that it gets away with offering no tribute to the Archangels. Rather, the capital city provides the other cottings with protection and trade goods in exchange for freedom from sacrifice: a practice that many believe to be little more than government-endorsed extortion.
It is the 399th year of the Second Age and approximately 2000 years since the earth was shaped, but little has changed in the everyday lives of the people. The majority of Issareans still toil day after day, fearing what might come if their sacrifice is found unworthy.
The city of Freeborn continues to grow, but so does the Empty Basin, the desert that threatens to consume the land. In hopes of stemming the wrath of Curatio, King Issarel the XVI, in a surprising edict, has established a new order of “Chosen Women”, who take residence in monasteries outside the city walls and serve as prostitutes, voluntarily offering their first born sons for sacrifice. Though a few decry this practice as against the spirit of the foundation of the city, most accept the king’s edict because the Chosen Women are volunteers and well-compensated for their work. The king has issued a similar proclamation, known as the Choose the Future Campaign, which offers families throughout the realm monetary compensation for the sacrifice of their first-born sons to the priests of Curatio.