Legend and Lore: The races of Aion
January 16, 2009
GameZone North American Exclusive
and Lore: The races of Aion
Developers’ journal reveals the back story to NCsoft’s upcoming MMO
The land of Atreia is a beautiful and mysterious place, peopled by disparate races with unique perspectives of the shattered lands they call home.
The peoples of this land have no love for the other, a fact that colors their individual histories and the lore about the origins of the world. Harken now as the two races, the Asmodians and the Elyos, tell – as each perceives it – of the origin of the world and peoples of Aion: The Tower of Eternity, the upcoming massively multiplayer online role-playing game from NCsoft.
Chapter 1: Unity
I'll first speak of the era that existed even before my time. Our stories tell tales of green lands and bountiful pastures, a world in which we could prosper and grow happy with our families. This was the era that existed even before the Elyos and the Asmodians existed, when we were simply known as humans. Atreia was one. A whole. As we were one with each other, there was no divide, not between our worlds, nor between our people.
Years passed like this, and by all accounts our ancestors were content. I cannot help but feel anger at this, that they did not celebrate this paradise they were given, and that there was even a notion that this world was taken for granted. However, knowing what has happened since this time gives context, and perhaps it is only through the benefit of hindsight that we can understand those treasures that we once had. Perhaps even this wasteland that we now call home is a paradise compared to some other land, though I find it difficult to imagine a place more trying than this.
Things would soon change though. Little did we know the horror Aion had in store for us, as our world was about to see a great and lingering nightmare come crashing down, baring vicious teeth and an uncontrollable thirst for war.
Chapter 2: An Ungodly Creation
These nightmares I speak of, they were called the draken, and were terrifying creatures to behold. Huge and heavy, our makeshift weapons were useless against their toughened hides. Worse still, they could spread their wings and take to the skies in a moment's notice, rendering our meager defenses useless in a heartbeat. Soon our people learned to hide from the draken, and without a natural predator, their numbers and confidence grew in equal measure. Before long, their darkened silhouettes, once created by Aion to rule our world, were a common sight in the sky.
Their desire for power was insatiable; entire species withered and died under their fury as the draken descended. They brought burning infernos with them and in their wake left little more than charred and ruined lands. Soon after the initial carnage these beasts started displaying their intelligence. After realizing the warlike tendencies of the Krall and the Mau, the draken chose not destroy them, but instead subjugated their remaining numbers, saving them only after they had sworn eternal allegiance to their new masters. It was around this time that the draken experienced something of an evolution, as some of their numbers started to grow larger, stronger and more intelligent than their peers. These creatures were called Dragons, not draken, and of their number, five took command of the rest. These five became known as the Dragon Lords.
These five, now awakened, quickly reorganized their forces, established military-like ranks throughout their society, and chose to rename their people "The Balaur". With their new title, these beasts attacked again with renewed vigor, decimating the few remaining groups who dared resist submission.
Still they were not satisfied, and in seeking more powerful opponents, turned their attention to the god of Atreia, Aion, and demanded the same powers that our creator wielded. When Aion refused, the Balaur, blinded with rage and driven by greed, turned on our god, and gathered their forces for an attack on the great Tower of Eternity.
Chapter 3: The Millennium War
Aion's hand was forced, and in retaliation, the god created twelve figures named the Empyrean Lords. These creatures possessed a beauty and strength far beyond anything we had ever seen before, and, like the Balaur, could take flight using the power of a strange and curious substance called Aether. Our faith in our god, and our devotion to Atreia had been recognized: these creatures were created in our image, and had come to save the world that so many of us had learned to call home.
The inevitable battle started, and soon turned into a long and bloody war. We had found protection around the tower, inside the Aetheric shield our Empyrean Lords had created for us. However, the shield was small, and the land outside of its boundaries stayed under the control of the Balaur. Outside of the Aetheric shield our Empyrean Lords were weakened just as the Balaur were weakened inside it, and once the Balaur realized this, they would line up innocent creatures just outside its boundary and butcher them in an attempt to lure our Lords out. They were cruel creatures, and their actions only solidified our hatred for them.
This was the time which we later came to call the Millennium War, a time in which we humans could prosper once again under the protective wings of our Empyrean Lords. This was also the time during which I was born, and by the time I had grown into a young man, I found the Aether that Aion granted this world had a drastic affect on me. The Aether responded to me, and I to it, and soon my talents were noticed by others who our people had only seen on occasion. These others, these Daevas, were human at birth, but possessed an innate ability to manipulate the Aether that was used by the Empyrean Lords. Slowly but surely I learned to master these abilities, and while at first I could only chill the air around me, within months I could freeze opponents into place, and summon balls of fire to engulf the Balaur. I found myself revered, much like a god, as those who had once held me close to their breast now placed me on a mighty pedestal. The feeling that I, the son of a simple farmer, could cause suffering to these Balaur was intoxicating - this was a blessing from Aion that I could never even hope to repay.
Soon the number of Daevas swelled enough for our Empyrean Lords to mobilize us into a fighting force. I joined the Legion, and progressed quickly through the ranks, leaving my child, an infant boy named Phalaris, behind.
Chapter 4: Cowardice
I progressed further through the ranks. My skills as a sorcerer were superior to many of the other Daevas and within the year I was granted control of a full legion. The fighting was fierce, and while we were often placed in danger before the Balaur, our Empyrean Lords were always careful to protect us. Our skills and tactics improved, and eventually we were able to start killing their younger, more foolish dragons, where before we would be forced to retreat behind our Aetheric shield. These were small steps, but as every parent knows, a child must learn to walk before they can run.
Then came the day that sent us all staggering.
Lord Israphel, one of the two Guardians of the Tower of Eternity - Lord Israphel, who despised the Dragon Lords like no other - declared that we should make peace with them. The purpose of the war, he reasoned, was not to annihilate the Balaur. It was to protect Aion.
I was astonished; astonished that one of our saviours had lost his resolve so easily, astonished that his courage and fierce determination had slipped so... so suddenly. There was consternation among the Empyrean Lords at first. At that time, even the prospect of making peace was unthinkable... a travesty. It seemed we were all of one mind. Israphel's proposal was absurd.
And yet, it was not long before the weaker Lords showed they had never truly had the stomach for the fight, and longed for the burden of honor to be lifted from them. Lady Ariel was the first to capitulate, and with honeyed words she spoke of Israphel's wisdom, his seniority, his bravery - bravery! - in daring to propose peace. She had the audacity to tell us how we, as Daevas, should think and act.
How quickly she and her camp followers forgot the sacrifices of a thousand years. What petty value they placed upon the shed blood of so many of our kin.
But others of the Lords still had true steel in their spirits. As a Daeva I had grown to know some of our Lords, and the one with whom I worked best was a great and dignified Lord named Asphel. His resolve was always strong, and it was on his missions that we always had the most success. His manner and his ability were an inspiration to many of us; and so when Ariel's insipid pleading began to sway some, and I saw the grimace on Asphel's face, I knew where my own allegiance lay. He stood to speak, and we stood with him. He berated Ariel for her disdain for the honored dead, and blasted the peace initiative as a naive and misguided waste of time.
The hall erupted with fury. It still rings in my ears... the roaring, the confusion, the words of accusation and hate, as each side railed against the other. Beyond, I saw Israphel speaking impassioned words to Siel, who listened gravely. Israphel insisted that we could defend Aion by working towards peace, rather than through constant warfare. To my horror, Siel was nodding.
To preserve some fragment of concord, all of us agreed to depart the grand hall and leave the Twelve Empyrean Lords to their discussion. I went with comrades-in-arms who knew Lord Asphel's side to be the only just one; but others went slinking off into the night, in the company of their fellow cowards, in groups of their own. Already we were forming into separate camps, according to whether we sided with the worthy or the weak.
We waited patiently for the outcome that night. I remember it well; I recall looking across our world, seeing plumes of fire burning in the distance, and knowing there was no way that peace would ever exist between the Balaur and us. I thought back and remembered the decades of perpetual fighting, remembered those dark soulless eyes, unblinking and unrelenting as they massacred my friends and my family, for no better reason than a simple, bestial desire for domination.
I knew Siel would reject Israphel's proposal. I knew that Asphel would argue his case, our case, and that the others, even Lady Ariel herself, would see sense and agree. I knew this; and yet when the Empyrean Lords eventually emerged, the decision that was made shook my nerves, and left me and my legion reeling. Lady Siel had succumbed. For all our protests, she and Israphel, as Guardians of the Tower, held final authority over the Twelve. The decision was final. We were to treat with the Balaur. Already I heard Ariel's voice raised in jubilant triumph, and the sound of her four cohorts singing some inane chant of peace.
Asphel came forth, his face pure fury. As he left, I took flight after him, a significant number of my fellow Daevas in tow.
Chapter 5: The Epic Cataclysm
So, within days, the misguided peace conference began. As a mark of respect to the five Dragon Lords, the Aetheric Field around the tower was lowered, and they were invited inside this colossal structure for the negotiations. A lifetime passed in the space of a few minutes. I looked into the eyes of my legionaries, and saw the mistrust and anger that our convictions had been so weak as to let these beasts, which would have us kneel before them even now, treat with us. I turned to my most trusted centurion, and went to speak with him, when, as quick as a click of a finger, everything changed. There was shouting, confusion, a rout. One of the Balaur had fallen, and Lord Asphel was standing ready to fight, his eyes blazing.
The Balaur attacked. Voices screamed for Siel and Israphel to raise the Aetheric Field once again, but for the second time, they failed us. Lost in the tumult, they could not act in concert to defend the Tower. Under the Balaur's raging claws and weapons, the Tower began to splinter and fragment.
I remember Israphel's tortured face, wracked with guilt, as he directed Lord Asphel and all his Daeva legions to the north, while Siel marshalled Ariel and hers to the south. There was one remaining hope. Working in two groups, one at each end of the Tower, the Empyrean Lords would do all in their power to prevent the Tower's collapse.
We held fast. Those in the South, we now know, did not.
In an instant our world was plunged into darkness as the tower's light was snuffed out. The people turned, screaming as they ran in all directions.
I remember that moment as though it were yesterday; I remember looking up and watching shards of the tower snapping and falling, illuminated only by the flickering light of the great structure. I remember standing there, rooted to the spot as a huge fragment splintered from the tower, and began to fall towards me. I remember that day well... it was the day I found the other gift that being a Daeva granted me: immortality.
I awoke, looked across our great world, and saw Atreia shattered into two halves. The lower half had been engulfed in a fierce and bright light, while ours had been plunged into cold, desolate darkness.
The peace conference was over.
Chapter 1: Creation
Many millennia ago, our god, Aion, created Atreia. Our world was a beautiful one, a planet full of life and color with the mighty Aion, the Tower of Eternity, spanning the inner core of our world. This was a time when we and the Asmodians were the same people, simply called humans. Fully enclosed, our world and united home was illuminated only by the soft, gentle glow of the tower. It nurtured us, gave us hope, and supported us in every way.
We, in turn, were fully subservient to our god. We know this through not only stories and tales that passed down through the generations, but also in various artifacts and inscriptions that our archaeologists have found at dig sites throughout Elysium. There is no shame in this.
Quite why Aion had created this world for us remains a mystery. However, in hindsight, we can see that our god had a monumental challenge in store for us, as the god summoned forth a monstrosity to put our resolve, and the strength of our convictions, to the test.
Chapter 2: The Age of the Balaur
They were called the draken, and were appalling beasts to behold. Some of our oldest parables feature these monstrosities, and at night we still tell misbehaving children of their furious anger and thirst for blood. We quickly learned to hide from them, using natural enclaves to keep their keen eyes attracted elsewhere. Still we lost thousands of our kind, while other creatures were entirely wiped out under their relentless onslaught. Others, such as the Mau, and Krall, were enslaved by the draken, and were only kept alive so that their brute strength could be used against other enemies.
These draken, sent by Aion to rule Atreia, quickly became more confident as their numbers swelled. However, as their greed for power grew, so did they start to forget their mission, and indeed, their god. Our stories tell of one day in particular, when something changed in the draken. They became more organized, and a few of their number gained dominance over the others. We later learned these draken called the event their "awakening", and it was roughly around this time that their new masters, the five dragon lords, renamed their kin with the term which we still use today: the Balaur.
The first time our ancestors saw the Balaur, they thought them a new species, such was the difference in physical appearance and ability. It was only after their first attacks that they recognized the sheer brutality of their attacks, and their unrelenting desire to extinguish life, that the truth dawned on our ancestors. These creatures, who had apparently received a blessing from Aion, were the same terrors that had been so ruthlessly wiping race after race from the face of Atreia.
The Balaur had by this stage forgotten their mission entirely, becoming arrogant and greedy, demanding more power from Aion than could be provided. Aion refused, afraid of the potential consequences of granting such destructive terrors the same abilities that our benevolent creator possessed. Realizing their potential was being suppressed by Aion, the Balaur eventually turned on their god, rallying forth their more warlike subjects and threatening the Tower of Eternity itself.
Chapter 3: The Millennium War
Our ancestors were brave, and stood united in defence of the tower and the god that they had come to love. However, the Balaur, with their sheer brute force, tore through their ranks, slaughtering thousands where they stood. In a desperate move, Aion created the Empyrean lords, 12 powerful guardians tasked with reigning in the marauding Balaur and restoring order to Atreia. Aion also created Aether, a substance which the Empyrean Lords could manipulate to protect themselves and their followers from the Balaur. This substance was also used to create a protective shield around the Aion tower, so large that it allowed our remaining ancestors to rest within its boundaries and slowly, day by day, restore some semblance of civilization.
So began the Millennium War, a conflict that saw the lands and creatures outside our Aetheric Field burn and scream in agony as the Balaur took out their frustrations on anything that dared show even the slightest resistance. The inscriptions that we still have show our people prospering during this time as the Empyrean Lords bravely fought against the Balaur, eventually taking with them the humans that were capable of utilizing the Aether in similar ways to these Empyrean Lords. These individuals became known as Daevas, and in the full passage of time would unlock power far greater than our own. They were virtually demi-gods, and would soon become instrumental in shaping our future. Indeed, their ability to fly led many of us to believe they were angels, sent by Aion to bring order and stability to our world.
The war raged for years, and while one side would occasionally gain the upper hand, it seemed that this contest was finely balanced indeed. If one side were to eventually claim victory, the cost to their own people would be almost unbearable.
Afraid of continuing this crippling and demoralizing war, some of our Empyrean Lords started looking at other ways of ending this struggle...
Chapter 4: Hope
Of all the Empyrean Lords, the one who spoke most to us, the people, was a beautiful figure named Ariel. On one of her first evenings on Atreia, Ariel came down from the tower of Aion and spoke with us around our campfire. By all accounts, she was patient and caring, and told us everything that we needed to hear. The Balaur, mighty and terrifying as they were, would not dare cross the boundaries of the Aetheric shield. For the first time in many, many years, we were actually safe. We still have the stone carving depicting that evening, showing this great female figure, with open arms, watching us weep tears of joy and relief, as we celebrated for the first time in many, many years.
I tell you of Ariel now, because it was she who first recognized the wisdom in Lord Israphel's unexpected proposal and saw that peace was the only option. It was she who had the foresight to know that victory, if possible at all, would almost certainly cripple us; and it was she who was brave enough to confront her fellow Empyrean Lords, and condemn their thirst for endless battle as the vainglory it truly was.
She echoed Israphel's view that if we were still trapped in this same war after one thousand years, then what guarantee would we have that this war wouldn't still be raging after two, three, or ten thousand years? Ariel saw, as Israphel had seen, that by continuing this exhausting war, we risked losing more than mere numbers. We would lose the one thing that elevated us above the Balaur, and the other ferocious beasts within our world: our humanity. It was well known that Israphel detested the Balaur more than any other. If he, even he, could overcome his loathing in the name of peace, then everyone could - indeed, should - follow his example.
While we have no records of what exactly was said between the Empyrean Lords in the wake of Israphel's announcement, we know there was something of a dispute between Ariel and some of the more warlike Lords. It was clear the decision to seek peace would not go unopposed, and for the first time, rifts appeared in our united front.
But even the warmongers and glory-hounds, rant and froth as they might, could not deny the authority of Israphel and Siel acting in concert as Guardians of the Tower. Lady Ariel and the four blessed Lords who took her side argued for many long hours, but it was only Lady Siel's agreement that sealed the issue once and for all. The Guardians had spoken: there would be peace.
Our forefathers rejoiced. How could they not? The bombastic wrath of Lord Asphel and his underlings was just so much sound and fury, the petulance of children denied. As they winged their way into the cold night, none doubted that they would be back eventually, once tempers had had a chance to cool. The path was clearly laid before us now, and none would dare to rebel.
Ariel led her faithful in a song of praise and thanks to Aion, and for the first time in many, many centuries, we dared to hope.
Chapter 5: The Epic Cataclysm
The morning of the peace conference dawned. Our ancestors awoke to find the five Dragon Lords, leaders of the Balaur, standing alone outside the Aetheric Field. The drawings we have of the day show them to be physically huge creatures, much larger than the other Balaur.
Siel and Israphel, the two Empyrean Lords charged with protecting the tower itself, lowered the Aetheric Field, and invited the Dragon Lords inside the tower for negotiations. Here was a chance for these creatures to destroy us entirely, and yet they chose not to, instead walking peacefully through our settlements and into the tower. Perhaps we had gained their respect through our resilience and determination, and perhaps this trust that we, and Ariel, had placed in them was not misplaced at all. Asphel was present, and with him his cronies, their faces dark. The peace conference began, and for a short while negotiations were progressing well.
Then, in a moment's breath, it happened.
We still speak of the events that followed that day, of the sudden shouts of panic, of the sickening certainty that gripped us all: the warmongers would have their way, even if they had to sacrifice all of Atreia to achieve it. We saw Asphel move swiftly and suddenly, and the Dragon Lord Vitra collapse. The Balaur did not waste time with words. In an instant, there was carnage and chaos.
Their hatred redoubled, they hacked their way past us and into the very substance of Aion itself. The walls of the Tower shivered and cracked, coming away in titanic shards.
Ariel wept as she strove to hold the Tower of Eternity intact. Sent to its southern base to lend her energy to the Tower, along with all of her attendant Lords, she was now all that stood between Atreia and destruction. Asphel and his group, sent northwards with the same purpose, were no doubt too enthralled with the sudden resumption of hostilities to do their duty and hold the Tower intact.
For despite Ariel's striving, the Lords failed. The Tower gave a mighty groan, buckled and shattered from end to end. Aion fell.
I cannot speak of the fear that gripped our forefathers when the great tower that spanned the interior of Atreia suddenly shifted and cracked. We tell tales of thousands running for their lives, pandemonium in their wake.
Realising that Atreia itself was dying, Siel and Israphel sacrificed themselves. They each drained their bodies of Aether, their blood, and in their final moments used it to safeguard our people.
Millions died in the event which we now know as the Epic Cataclysm. Finally, as the debris settled, we could see what had happened to our beautiful world: Aion, the Tower of Eternity, was shattered, and our world was torn in two.