The Song of the Qui-Chi
The Blue age
Lost in the dim recesses of time, the first age of Athas was marked by an almost endless sea of blue. An azure flame burned deep within the sun’s heart. The few land masses that existed were marshes, swamps, or the peaks of mountains that jutted up from the sparkling waves, their tips covered with forests and that oddity known as snow. In this age, a great halfling civilization flourished beneath the azure sun. Yes, you read rightly, friend. Moreover, the halflings were the only intelligent beings on Athas at the time (though there were apparently small numbers of primitive thri-kreen, whom the halflings looked upon as beasts). These halflings had neither magic nor psionics to call upon, but they had created a society more sophisticated and advanced than anything that presently exists on Athas. Their cities dotted the endless sea, spreading their influence far and wide and making them the undisputed masters of the world. Perhaps the greatest halfling city was Tyr’agi, located in the hollow that would someday become the Tyr Valley. The vale was filled with a vast swamp of vine-draped trees and floating islands of moss. At the edge of the valley, a strange, beautiful city of graceful sweeps and brilliant colors rose from the marsh. The buildings were not so much constructed as they were grown, marked by an architecture of gentle curves and elegant spires, with no straight edges, sharp points, or abrupt corners. Everything was made from a uniformly porous stone that radiated any number of wonderful hues—blazing crimson, emerald green, royal blue, deep purple, and others. There were no streets in Tyr’agi, but wide canals filled with long, slender boats crisscrossed the halfling city. The boats were not built of wood and hides, but were as alive in their own way as the child-sized halflings who guided them. I know what you must be thinking: How could the feral halflings create living structures, they who seem to hold life so cheaply? But I tell you these were not the feral halflings of today’s Athas. These halflings were not cannibals: they had short-cropped hair, elegant tabards, and wore “living creatures” on their bodies that served functions of which I have little understanding. The halflings were the masters of the world, growing homes, tools, and other items from a rocklike plant that lived beneath the waves. They harvested the sea for every-thing they needed to maintain their vast, splendiferous society. They could create any-thing they needed by manipulating the principles of nature itself. They had no wizardly magic, no psionics, and only a small understanding of elemental priestly magic, but they were nature-masters and life-shapers, and that was more than enough. The Blue Age lasted for untold generations, and with each passing century the halflings learned more and more about nature and the ways to manipulate it. They grew living transports, living armor, living weapons, and living tools. The world of the Blue Age was wondrous and alive, and it bowed to the commands of the halfiings who inhabited it. While most of the halfiing nature-masters worked in concert with the environment, a few rebels kept trying to push the boundaries, to make nature bend in ways it was never meant. Wars were fought against some of these nature-benders. . . . Sadly, a few of their living weapons have survived even to the current age. But it wasn’t a war, or an evil nature-bender, or a corrupt elemental priest who caused the Blue Age to come to an end. It was an accident, and nothing more. While the knowledge the halflings possessed was vast, it was far from complete. The haifiings of Tyr’agi tried to increase the sea’s capacity to sustain life so that the number of creatures and plants it produced could be doubled. The experiment went awry, however, and instead the sea began to die. A fetid brown tide spread across the waves, killing everything it touched. Many of the haiflings panicked and looked for ways to protect themselves. Some built great subterranean strongholds. Others fled to the mountain forests. A few, however, remained in Tyr’agi, struggling to find a way to cure the dying sea. Eventually reality sank in. There was no way to save the Blue Age. If life on Athas was to have any chance at all, the halflings had to stand aside and let another age begin.