Skyships of Mars
A Brief and Incomplete History of Mars
Mars, as it exists today, is an ancient planet that has long supported life for tens of thousands of years. Throughout that time, great civilizations rose and fell as new civilizations rose to take their place. While every intelligent race of Mars has their own theories and beliefs there are some general points that all of the races agree upon. What follows is a brief explanation of what most Martians believe has come before.
The Age of Atlantis
In the pre-dawn of ancient times, there arose the first and greatest of the Martian civilizations. These were the people of fabled Atlantis. The ancient Atlanteans were the most advanced society Mars has ever seen and, at the height of their power, their empire spanned across three worlds and the moons in between. Indeed, the Atlanteans did not originate on Mars. They came from elsewhere. The Dheva claim the Atlanteans came from their nearest planetary neighbor, Earth, while the Praelor believe the Atlanteans did not originate on Earth but instead came from somewhere beyond the stars and merely colonized the Earth first. All agree that Atlantis, itself, was located on Earth and the seat of Atlantean power on Mars was the fabled and mighty fortress-city of Xenophon.
From Xenophon the Atlanteans ruled “every part of Mars from the moons in the sky to the depths of its core.” The Atlanteans were masters of both science and magic. They could command the very forces of life itself and they were capable of altering their own forms as well as creating entirely new races to suit their whims. The Atlanteans created the Elosi, the Grey Men of Mars, to serve them during this time.
The Age of Xenophon
No one knows what but something happened that changed the Atlantean empire forever. Some claim it was some terrible catastrophe while others believe some unknown enemy, perhaps even the Djinn, attacked the Atlanteans while others believe the Atlanteans made war upon themselves. Regardless, the mighty Empire of Atlantis was shattered when their ability to travel and perhaps even communicate between worlds was somehow sundered or severely curtailed. Atlantis was left with only the Earth to rule, while the Atlanteans of Luxor remained the Overseers of distant Venus. On Mars, mighty Xenophon ruled supreme for many thousands of years.
During this time, there was much unrest and upheaval. The once unified Atlanteans splintered into numerous competing factions. For a time, Xenophon ensured peace by unifying these factions into the Net-Jeru, a governing body of the most powerful representatives of each of the factions. Open warfare was averted but tensions continued to simmer as each faction sought to gain advantage for themselves at the expense of the others.
The Chitik claim that their race was “born” during this period although no evidence to support this claim has ever been found. While the Chitik claim their ascendance was the product of a natural evolution most scholars agree that the Chitik are most likely a slave-race created later by the Elosi.
The Great Betrayal
The last remnants of the mighty Atlantean Empire did not fade away with time. They were torn down and deliberately destroyed by their former servants, the Elosi. The reasons for the betrayal are open to much debate. The Praelorian scholar, Asmasedus, postulated that the Xenophons became vain and cruel. It was this cruelty that drove the Grey Men of Mars to rise up against their masters and tear down all that they had built. According to the creation myths of the Zhul-Ya, the Elosi grew envious of their masters’ great works and sought to claim them for themselves but they lacked the divine nature of their Atlantean creators and could not make the Atlantean marvels work in Elosi hands. All agree that the Elosi rose up against the Atlanteans. Mighty Xenophon was breached and razed. The Altantean survivors were scattered and the Elosi spent centuries hunting down and destroying every trace of the Atlantean civilization. No one knows if this was done out of hatred of Atlantean cruelty or if it was a guilty attempt to conceal Elosi treachery. Today almost nothing remains of the ancient Atlanteans or their vast knowledge.
The Age of the Elosi
While the Elosi were not as advanced as the Atlanteans, their civilization was still vastly more advanced than anything on Mars today. They built vast cities throughout Mars and connected them with an expansive network of canals. The Elosi lacked the Atlantean’s ability to create life from nothing but they had sufficient understanding to alter existing life forms to suit their purposes. During their centuries long persecution of all things Atlantean the Elosi created several races to act as their living tools and weapons. Most scholars agree that these were the inhuman races – the repulsive Chitik (although the Bug-Men dispute this); the Grohd, the savage White Apes of Mars; and the diverse Saurens, the Dinomen of Mars. The Grohd were created as warriors and hunters turned loose in the wastelands to hunt down the last remaining Atlantean survivors. The Saurens were living tools used for everything from domestic duties and warfare, to heavy labor and construction.
During this time, the scattered few remaining Atlanteans were hunted nearly to extinction by the hated White Apes and even today animosity between the White Apes and the Men of Mars runs deep. They lost what little remained of their ancient knowledge and lived as beasts in the hills. Eventually, these survivors diverged into three distinct tribes of peoples: the Dheva, the Praelor, and the Zhal-Ya. These primitive tribes hid in the farthest reaches of Mars where the vast armies of the Elosi could not find them.
The Age of War
The Elosi empire grew in ascendency for nearly a thousand years but eventually it too fell into decline. Satisfied that they had wiped all traces of their foes from existence the Elosi turned their attentions to other subjects and withdrew from the daily administration of their empire. They lost control of the Grohd who had been abandoned to the wilderness as no longer necessary. Meanwhile the Sauren were left more and more to their own devices as their Elosi overseers retreated into their hives more and more frequently. The primitive Sauren were never as wise as their Grey masters and proved unequal to the task. More and more of the technology of the Elosi empire began to fail and the Sauren lacked the ability fix the problems. The Elosi ignored all attempts at communication and Sauren requests for assistance went unanswered. As the infrastructure of the Elosi empire began to break down and their masters had seemingly disappeared the Sauren abandoned their previous tasks and began to forge their own little kingdoms. These kingdoms clashed with each other even as they fought off raids by nomadic Grohd clans. The Chitik, stirred to wrath by the constant upheaval, also rose and fought against both the Saurens and the White Apes of the Grohd.
Then from the mountains emerged the vengeful ancestors of the ancient Atlanteans. A mighty army of disciplined Zhul-Ya warriors with Praelorian quartermasters and Dheva diplomats marched united beneath the banner of a strange outsider. A man named Carter – the first White Man of Mars. Legends say that the man called The Warlord of Mars had, impossible as it seemed, come from distant Earth where he was a mighty warrior and leader. As an outsider, he united the other races of Men and led them to reclaim the lowlands from the Beast-Men of Mars. Carter carved out a modest empire and dedicated it to the woman he loved, a Zhul-Ya princess. During his reign, other White Men began to appear on Mars. Each claimed to have been drawn from Earth by some unknown providence and deposited naked and confused upon the red sands of Mars. Carter preached war against the Beast-Men but worked tirelessly to unify the Men of Mars. Carter founded the twin cities of Anshan and Ashur as his personal domain and declared that all Men of Mars would be forever welcome there regardless of their color. Other cities were founded by Dheva, Zhul-Ya, or Praelor leaders for their respective peoples but many more cities followed the example set by the Warlord and welcomed all Men as citizens. A rare few even opened their gates to small communities of Saurens or Chitik if they proved non-violent. Only the Grohd have never been welcome in the cities of Men and even today the White Apes are the implacable enemies of all the Men of Mars. Carter died in battle but his empire lived on in the person of his beloved Queen. Less aggressive and more practically-minded than her husband, the Queen continued to expand her empire’s borders not through conquest but through diplomacy, marriage, and alliance.
Carter’s empire did not outlive his queen, however. When she was assassinated in 1214, the Empire of Men was torn apart by a vicious war of dynastic succession, called “The War of a Hundred Kings.” As candidates for the throne fought for control, some cities chose to abandon the idea of empire entirely and fought for their own independence. Other cities under the command of Zhul-Ya generals, Dheva counselors, and Praelor Administrators declared an end to the royal line of Carter and fought to put a new line of their own choosing on the throne. Green Men fought Red Men while Purple Men hired Suaren mercenaries to do their fighting for them. White Apes used the Chaos to raid across once secure borders spreading chaos and destruction deep into once settled lands.
In the end, the Empire of Men simply ceased to be. Larger cities emerged as independent city-states who competed against each other for resources and influence. Smaller cities were either swallowed up by their larger kin or simply were abandoned. Power became consolidated into a relative handful of powerful city-states and stability returned to Mars. The major states still squabble among themselves and wars between states are not uncommon. Alliances between states are often matters of convenience and common interests are usually temporary.
The Current Age
No one believes the wars of the previous age are truly finished and most see this as simply a longer than normal lull in the fighting. The balance of power has largely stabilized among the Men of Mars with two competing groups of allied City-States (the League of Free Cities and the Utopian Alliance) and numerous smaller city-states that the larger leagues compete to influence. Complicating matters are the often vast distances between city-states. Much of Mars is comprised of sparsely populated badlands barely capable of supporting life. Most inhabitants of the badlands are nomadic and life is often short and violent. Water is the most precious commodity and the dangerous wildlife know that another living being is the most readily available source of liquid. There is very little vegetation and almost every animal is predatory and aggressive. Troupes of White-Apes are the most dangerous threats to desert travelers but are by no means the only threats. Even the skies over the badlands are not without the threat of attack by a myriad of dangerous and carnivorous creatures.
Current Martian architecture reflects the recent period of war and tends to be somewhat fortress-like with thick walled buildings clustered around open courtyards. Exterior walls are thick with narrow windows. Buildings are rarely more than two or three stories tall but can reach as high as six or even eight stories in larger cities. Older City-States are generally surrounded by high curtain walls and or built into mountains or other easily defensible rock formations. Newer city-states have used the talents of Endjineers to raise themselves off the ground entirely.
The climate of Mars tends to be warm and dry everywhere but at the poles or in the high elevations. What moisture there is tends to congregate in lowlands and deep valleys. Most city-states are built on or near a source of water such as the many Martian canals. What water is to be found in the badlands is often poisoned or briney and would need to be filtered before it can be safely consumed.