And so we come to present day--the dawn of the Fourth Age. Magic has begun to return, the gods are speaking to their priests again-- it could be the start of a new golden age. On the other hand, new forces called “science” are being harnessed, and the land is divided into small nations that constantly seek advantage over their neighbors. Can Terok ever go back to the way it was? Should it?
The Rise of Science
With magic both divine and arcane almost entirely a thing of the past, new ways were needed to do things, from healing the sick to building roads. While many tried to cling to the old ways for as long as possible, two of the more methodical races began making headway at taming their environment, eventually allowing wonders that would almost rival the magics of old.
The dwarves continued to delve and forge, and sought ways to improve both tasks. Over time they developed a powdery substance that, when applied in sufficient quantities and then lit, resulted in spectacular explosions, sufficient for clearing the most stubborn obstacles. This substance was given the rather unimaginative name of “black powder,” and would prove to have profound applications beyond tunnel building.
Meanwhile, the halflings were more concerned with their harvests (including their love of brewing said harvests), and getting them to market on time. Both concerns led to some exciting discoveries in the areas of chemistry and physics, including lighter-than-air gasses, and the ability to harness steam to make their wagons move faster. Couple these advances with the progression of their age-old clockworking skills, and the halflings have developed into the dominant scientific race in Terok.
And what of the humans? While not suffering subjugation like the elves, the humans in general lacked the focus to develop most of the sciences the dwarves and halflings refined. What they lack in innovation, however, they more than make up in application--thus far, humans are the best customers for publicly available technology (in cities where there is publicly available technology), and a thriving black market exists for proscribed items (with gunpowder being at the top of the list).
The Alliance of Technologists: For a time, the dwarves and halflings worked independently on their own ventures. Soon enough, however, they noticed each other’s efforts, and curiosity grew. There were initially some cursory attempts at espionage, but eventually both groups gave up on skullduggery and began a dialogue. The result of these talks was the Alliance of Technologists, a loose-knit group of top scientists from both races who share the latest innovations with each other. The first big impact the Alliance had was the deal they brokered where the dwarves gave up the secret of gunpowder, in return for the halfling’s steam engine designs.
The Return of Magic
To say magic had vanished entirely is a bit of a misnomer--items imbued with magic endured, even after the ability to create such items was lost. This made what magic remained a finite, highly sought resource.
The Gods Speak Once More
The Church at the end of the Third Age was a vastly different entity from the Church at its peak in the Second. Gone was its power and influence; gone also were the rich tithes and full ranks of clergy. Many temples had been taken over by city officials or merchants, and those that remained in Church hands could boast barely a dozen attendees at weekly services. Which meant that when godly power returned to its priests, the news took awhile to spread. The story is largely the same, though it took place in many cities: during the normal, desultory morning services, the few attendees were shocked to see that their pastor had begun to glow in the middle of his or her sermon. The priests themselves stopped what they were doing, amazed and awed at what they were feeling, standing motionless until the glow faded away, at which point they dropped to their knees, tears running down their cheeks, and led their flocks in heartfelt prayers of gratitude.
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