Welcome to our final instalment of our lore blog post series, which have delved into the different races in Ashen and the lore and story behind the game. This edition dives into the third age, when man came to be from Gefn and their place in the greater history of Ashen.
There was a time Humans and Listeners were at peace, but as the Ashen and its light faded away and the world fell into darkness, chaos insured. The great cities and civilisations humanity had built collapsed and fell away into the ash. Humans are resilient, and would adapt, but their history would never be forgotten.
The History of Man
Humanity came to Ashen in the third age. Gefn took the seed of a Listener and birthed the first man, but whether the child was wholly her design, or patterned on something she encountered on her age of roaming, has never been made clear. Certainly Gefn swam from the Ashen in its dying breaths, losing herself in the seas of night and finding herself on many a strange shore. Some say she swam to the very roots of Yggdrasil and gazed upon the worlds that hang from its branches.
Men, shorter of stature and of shorter of days than their Listener ancestors, lived and died across the great expanse of Ashen, conquering territory, mining their host’s body for resources, and building cities where they dwelt in teeming hordes. The truth of man’s origin became lost in the centuries that crowded behind them and they happily wrote their own myths, building on fragments of tales found in ancient stones, or the words of strange Bral that began once more to roam Ashen’s margins.
Although humanity would never match the ashsmiths of the Listeners, there were mages and sorcerers among their number who gained some mastery over the ash and were able to work a variety of wonders with it. Some held that there are sentences within the ash, others that it is a repository of memory and that nothing touched by it is truly lost. Sometimes what is held within the ash escapes into a living form, where it dwells within the flesh directing its host like a puppet or even reshaping them into something new.
Humanity gave itself gods in their own image and stood on the balconies of tower and castle watching the light die. The ash drifts that had once been a vital part of the cycles that sustained men, animals, and plants, turned sour as the light faded and the ash became unbalanced, blotting up darkness as paper takes ink. Strange patterns and flows appeared in the ash. Travellers reported monstrous forms rising where the ash lay deepest, only to struggle to maintain their shape and collapse again. Crops failed and ash dunes swallowed villages.
Seas that had been clear turned black and the fish within them grew strange. The last and greatest of man’s cities, the many-spired Lathyrus, fell, swallowed by a flow of ash that needed no wind nor gradient and seemed to contain with in it many great serpents made of the ash itself. So many humans died that the piled heaps of their bones grew larger than the homes they had once lived in.
Full dark came and the remnants of man foraged across Ashen, hiding from the Bral, seeking shelter in the temples and labyrinths abandoned by the Listeners. In the age of night the ash grew black and spirits haunted it. Sometimes it would form in imitation of lost cities, raising walls and towers in a matter of hours and maintaining them for moments or for years. Sometimes the ash would wrap old bones in night-flesh and set them walking, black simulacra of the original owners, either echoing through memories of lost routines or stalking their descendants across the face of Ashen.
Great libraries fell into decay, the ink spreading to turn each page black. The history of men shrivelled from a thousand volumes of academic study to a handful of tales repeated at the fireside to stave off fear. Stories of the first man whose family sprung from the ash where his tears of loneliness fell. Tales of the heroes who first wrested Ashen from the Listeners’ rule.
To find out more about the what happened to humanity and the world of Ashen after the third age of light ended, you can play through Ashen right now on Xbox One and PC. If you enjoyed digging into the history of man and the writing of Mark Lawrence, we’d recommend checking out our other lore blog posts, including our post looking into the first and second ages of light and the overall Ashen history and lore post.