An ancient dragonborn (recognizable to those of you familiar with the town of Circle Vale as Father Ashmamsuit) grips the handle of his cane as he ascends the main stage erected at the southern edge of the town commons, his brown robes swishing against his bare silver feet. The grassy area stretched a few hundred feet across, and was ringed by a cobble street. In addition to the southern stage, smaller platforms had been raised to the east and west for the Festival of Hope. Across the northern curve rests The Emerald Chalice, an ornate green cup painted on the wooden plaque outside the two story, timber-framed inn. For now, the crowd of people gathered at the extra seating set up on the cobbles pause their revelry in respect as the elder raises a scaled fist to his silvery snout to catch a rumbling cough.
"Greetings and welcome," he intones in a strong, deep voice carrying just a bit of quavering. "on behalf of The Abbey of Circle Vale. This day marks the 997th year since The Sundering, and the 897th Festival of Hope. Before we open up festivities, we have Brother Wilim, who will give this year's recounting of The Way."
The dragonborn steps back as two younger individuals in similar robes climb the steps onto the stage, carrying a wooden chair between them. They place it at the back of the stage and the dragonborn thanks them and sits, clasping his hands over the head of his cane. The human female steps to the side of the chair, while the human male steps to the front of the stage and pronounces in a loud clear voice:
"Our world and much of the life on it have existed for untold years, long, long before the gods arrived. In those Before Times, generations of trees sprouted, grew tall, and died. Generations of animals were born, grazed on plants or the flesh of other animals, grew old, and perished. In the Before Times, there were no creatures who possessed thought, no creatures with the spark of awareness. That came only after the arrival of the first god, the All-Mother. She came across the cosmos, her silvery hair streaming behind her until the world below caught her attention. She sensed great potential, and flew down to take a closer look. The world was not ready for the arrival of one such as she, and much was thrown into disarray. Many plants and creatures that had existed for untold generations perished with her arrival. The All-Mother grieved for their loss, and cut the silvery locks from her head in mourning.
Seeking to repair the damage to the world, she exerted her will upon those plants and animals upon it, altering their forms to fill roles within the greater whole. Among those that she raised up was the race of man, into whom she placed some of her own essence. This allowed man to think and be aware in a way no other creature of this world had been before.
For many years she watched over the race of man, guiding them to achieve the potential she saw in them, that they may one day transcend their flesh and join as one to take to the stars with her. In time she came to understand that while man held potential for greatness, the potential of man alone was not enough. She withdrew from the affairs of man to ponder the issue, generations of passing while she thought. In the end, she devised A Way, a path for this world to follow to achieve a higher state of being.
To do so, more diversity of sentient beings was needed, and so she selected a favored tribe of man, seeking to endow them with a new, improved form. Her efforts despite, her best intentions failed. What she created was an abomination and she banished it from her sight. Realizing she alone could not bring the needed diversity to the world, she pulled back The Veil she had placed over it, and allowed other gods to access the realm. Sensing the potential, other gods arrived claiming populations of mankind for their own. Some claimed man as they existed, but many altered their followers, molding them into the image of what they wanted. Moradin and his fellow gods appeared to the men of the mountains, teaching them the ways of stone and metal, in time their followers became shorter and stockier, better able to delve through the earth. Corellon Larethian and his fellow gods found the men of the woods, and lived among them, eventually giving rise to the race of elves. In time, others arrived, laying claim to groups of men and exerting their will upon them, giving rise to halflings and gnomes, goblins and orcs and giants. Other dieties arrived later, and found mankind and its descendant races spoken for, and thus claimed followers from among the animals, imbuing them with their own essence and granting sentience to them. Some of these were were bred with man, or elf or dwarf, giving rise to yet more races of sentient beings. Attention was drawn from other planes, both higher and lower, and many of the entities there taking interest in our world.
The All-Mother during this time watched as the Gods changed the nature of what she had brought forth. She was hopeful but that hope did not last. In time the different races worked to amass their own power and rather than unite, became argumentative and devisive. The All-Mother became worried, as she could not force the races of this world to follow The Way she saw, they had to arrive at it of their own efforts. This was not to be, as war broke out in the lands of man, dwarf and elf. Among man to the west, Thelbehrt Rega defeated any opposed to his rule, and proclaimed himself king. Likewise, the dwarves in the northern mountains were forcibly united under King Bori Thalison, and the elves under Queen Alwerwel Ind'elyen in the southern woods. Each of the three saw themselves as the true ruler of the world and the other two as their opposition, and began to build armies to exert their dominance. The other races were pulled into the conflict as well, halflings employed as spies by the armies of man, the gnomes split between dwarf and elf, whole clans of dragonborn being hired by one faction or another. Yet other races took advantage of the conflict to raid the homelands while the armies were at war. During this, the All-Mother wept and silently cried as she watched so much potential wasted and squandered. The other gods held their own creations and claimed races above all others and strove to aide them in the conflict.
For a whole two decades, the war raged, with each passing year the All-Mother growing more sick at heart as she watched The Way she envisioned fall into so many tiny pieces. Eventually, Thelbehrt, now an old man, saw that if the war was not ended decisively, that he may never see it in his lifetime. He gathered every fighting man and woman that he could, and marched east. Word reached Bori and Alwerwel, and not knowing who the armies of man intended to strike, gathered the full might of their armies and marched to meet him. The three armies arrived here, at the junction of all three kingdoms, where grasslands, mountains and forest ended in a wide clearing. It was here that for ten days man, dwarf, elf and the other races fighting for them bled and died. For ten days neither side seemed to have an advantage, when on the eleventh day, the All-Mother could bear it no longer. Her grief turned to rage when she saw what what her creation had come to, and so, rising up she smote the land, destroying what remained of all three armies...leaving behind the Circle Vale.", the young monk pauses and spreads his hands wide to the stone walls rising up around the cratered depression the town resides in, broken only by a switchback trail to the west, and a stream that flows over in a waterfall to the north.
After a moment of silence, he looks up again, "In her grief, she fled back to the cosmos, leaving behind that which had so sorely disappointed her. When she Sundered the land, it shook the whole of creation, and for many years after the world shuddered and spewed forth molten rock, and all was dark and grim. A hundred years passed, and the races began to recover the population that was lost, when the All-Mother appeared in the sky, her silver hair streaming behind her, returning to see if we of this world had yet found our way. Many holy and wise of all races journeyed here to the Circle Vale. On the day that marked one hundred years since The Sundering, the first Festival of Hope was held, a simple affair in recognition that her return meant we might be redeemable. We had not achieved that yet, and after observing for three months, she left. Since then, others who traveled here joined together to found The Abbey of Circle Vale, and dedicate themselves to The Way. Later, the town of Circle Vale grew, as did the Festival of Hope, bringing many individuals of every race here in remembrance of the potential we all carry."
*Make an Intelligence (Religion or History) check*
((If you have proficiency in Religion or History, add your proficiency bonus, otherwise it's a straight Intelligence check. Randerwaith, Ulmwin and Holger you have advantage on this roll.))
Young Wilim steps back, glancing towards the elder dragonborn, who nods his long chin approvingly before standing.
"Well spoken, Wilim.", raising his voice to address the crowd, "As you enjoy the festivities, do keep in mind that donations are always welcome, and that harmonious interactions are expected."
With that, he shuffles off the stage, and the crowd begins murmuring in excitement. A rotund middle age dwarf trundles onto the stage, his face flushed. "Oi! If you're looking to perform, come find me by the south stage to register! Only registered acts are permitted during the festival. There'll also be a mutton eating contest starting soon at The Emerald Chalice, and a boulder throwing competition in the middle of the Commons. You're all just lucky I had three breakfasts and hurt by shoulder, or I'd win both!" He grins goodnaturedly at the ribbing and playful jeers thrown at him by the crowd, and winks at his detractors.
With that, the dwarf hops off the stage and is quickly approached by a handful of interested performers.