The Years of Twilight (aka the Age of Tears) refers to the millenia (almost to the day!) between the BUN and the Reckoning of the Planes.
Those were tough times for the Elder Races. The Stones had fallen and everyone felt their loss. Up until the BUN, praying to the Earth Mother had been the Elder Races’ most popular form of recreation (prayer was, after all, a sacred obligation) but afterwards they replaced prayer with a new national pastime – hunting Dark Ones. Losing the Stones was hard on channelers. They’d been celebrities of Kardashian proportion, reveling in the symphony of earthsong between the Stones, but now they were bereft of power and haunted by silence.
Until the BUN, the Elder Races had enjoyed 24/7 sunshine for the past three thousand years, but Erlik’s escape, and subsequent flipping of the switch, put an end to that perfect streak. They’d thought, or at least hoped, that defeating One-Eye would restore world order, but it was not meant to be. Numra did restore the Suns, but the Rekindling couldn’t bring back the Full Radiance. Now that Erlik’s darkness had infected the Suns, they’d never be free of it again. Light and dark now shared Edda, Imma and Olla, like parents with joint custody. At each dawn and each dusk, the Suns became a battlefield. Neither side ever won more than the alloted time, but not for lack of trying. Day after day, year after year, One-eye and Aeriel tried outthinking the other, but to no avail.
For the Elder Races, losing the Full Radiance was a total shock to the system. After a single day lasting nearly three thousand years, nightfall came as such a jolt that they spent the next thousand years trying to adjust. Many never did. The darkness plagued them with nightmares and Dark Ones on the prowl.
Erlik had Dark Ones by the thousand at his beck and call. With Ymyrl still cooking up new ones in the Breeding Pits, the Darkhold was overflowing with Goblins, Scarags, Orcs, Trolls, Skulfs, Maldoks, Ulgarja and Jixari and other hideous monstrosities to the point where it couldn’t hold them all. Luckily for them, they weren’t confined to the Darkhold after the BUN because the Stones had fallen. Without them, those serving the Dark Lord were free to come and go as they pleased. By day, they hid in dark places underground and at night, they came out.
Collectively, the pathways between Sangrar and the Darkhold were known as the Dark Roads. Though subterranean like Caradar’s tunnels, the two road systems never intersected. In truth, they didn’t wholly exist in the same world. The tunnels of Caradar (those not collapsing during the BUN) were fully of our world, but the Dark Roads were not, they bridged the mundane and the profane. The Darkhold, you’ll remember, though it lay in the center of the world, also existed in a wholly separate fold of the Girdle.
All Dark Roads led to Arigath’s Gate, named for its rune-scarred Maldok guardian, though the easiest route came through the Maldok’s Maw, a rock formation near the Caverns of Doom. After the Gate, visitors passed the Pit of Souls before stepping onto the Walk of Shadows, the final leg of the journey between our world and the Dark Lord’s. After navigating the Walk, which conjured up fresh terrors for every traveler, those with courage to continue came to the cavern housing the Tower of Midnight at the entrance to the Darkhold. From there, one could choose between several destinations – One Eye’s Black Citadel, the Ulgarga fens, Ymyrl’s Breeding Pits or the Redoubt, the traitor’s necromantic home.
The world was emptier after the BUN. Many gave their lives to stop the Dark Ones. The Dolforro and their coral cities were gone forever, as were the Ravirs who’d followed the Earth Mother to Ardilun (Shavrakar doesn’t count, he was an anomaly). Of Elrasirre, only ash remained and the Forge Folk would spend years clearing rubble from Caradar’s clan halls.
As for the notion of Elven tribes and Dwarven clans, fahgeddabowtit, there just weren’t enough people left. This wasn’t a problem for the Fair Folk, tribal loyalties had always placed a distant second to racial ones and inter-tribal marriages were common, but the Forge Folk had erected strong walls between the clans. At the beginning of the BUN, Dar unintentionally paved the way for a new brand of thinking when he took in Valdarag and the other survivors of the Traitor’s clan.
When Daeryss took Ilnaya, he set in motion a chain of events leading to the Reckoning and the awakening of Mankind as foretold in the Prophecies. Kandol, Aeris and Valdarag hadn’t known where the quest would take them or what it would mean to the world, but even if they had, they would have tried to rescue her. Why? Well for one thing, they were heroes. It was in their DNA. The other piece was Ilnaya. People would do anything for her, and not just men. She inspired everyone who met her. Crazy isn’t it?
Those three weren’t the only heroes of the age. In every age of Sangrar, the Prophecies’ call to action summoned others in times of need. It wasn’t an everyday occurrence mind you, there just wasn’t a huge demand for heroes then. Sure, the Traitor had betrayed the entire world and Daeryss was despicable, but they were the exception not the rule. The Elder Races were predisposed to goodness. Not until Mankind awakened would evil find equal opportunity. Back then, those wanting to prove their heroism had to take it out on Dark Ones, the only true villains walking the world.
When the circumstances called for it though, true heroes stepped up to the plate, usually in groups of three taking on the aspects of Warrior, Prince and Priestess. That’s exactly what happened when a Maldok sorcerer poisoned Nammora and Kandyllyth, the young children of Kandollan (that’s Kandol and Velora’s son, in case all those names beginning with N and K sound the same to you). Kandollan played Warrior. His friend, Ansyrr, a Light Elf surviving Alyrre’s destruction took on the part of Priest and for Prince, they recruited Grakar, the son of a clan chief. The three heroes journeyed to the ruins of Jahar and crawled down the crack in the earth where the center Stone had once stood in search of silvill (the Dwarven name is unpronounceable), a rare silver cousin to villgrass, the Forge Folk’s nutty brown lettuce, and the only known antidote for the poison the Maldok used.
Those three weren’t the only ones to answer the Prophecies strident call, but their story was the most well known in my day. Kandol told me of others – of the brothers Wigglestump, the trio of Halflings who retrieved the tongs from Yarnor’s forge atop Mount Xorada, of the most unlikely threesome, Sylda the Sprite (the warrior believe it or not, a single prick from her tiny arrows would put an elephant to sleep) Melekornyr and Veldarsos, a pair of noble-born Satyrs taking on Prince and Priest respectively. These intrepid adventurers tracked down the Scarag Queen whose brood was menacing the southern Elvetur and destroyed her hidden cache of eggs.
The Harnae missed a golden opportunity during the Years of Twilight. They’d come out of the Grove during the BUN and lent a hand (for that, we had Kandol to thank. He’s the one who talked them into getting off their asses and joining the fight). After living in seclusion so long, you’d have thought they’d enjoy being around others, but once Nim found out she was pregnant, all bets were off. The three of them retreated to the Grove, Nim and the two fathers, Atar and Harrah, and waited anxiously for Tarik. Once he’d been born, they gave him their full attention and never even considered leaving the Grove until the thousandth anniversary of the BUN, when they unveiled Tarik to the world before ascending to join their patron Harnor in the Heavens.