For as long as history has been recorded on Albion, the tribes have been there. Over the years they have grown, shrunk, and grown again. Hundreds of petty battles fought and forgotten. What separated the human groups from Albion’s other life was their ability to listen and to understand.
Though the people of the tribes were not naturally as powerful as the beasts around them, they learned to enhance their natural savagery with that of the wolf, the bear, the eagle. Even the smaller animals had secrets to share, providing the watcher was patient enough. Over time, the tribes developed crafting skills to make claws of their own, as sharp as the wildest animal’s, and imbued with the land’s magic.
Where warriors would watch the predators, some among them took a broader view, listening to the whisper of streams, the rustle of leaves and the roaring of wind through the mountaintops. They became the first druids, attuning themselves to the heartbeat of the land.
Life was not easy however, for ancient Albion was also home to the Dragons, who treated the land as their playground. Humans were food to be eaten or toys for torture. In fact the Dragons saw all other life as beneath them and terrorised Albion with fang and fire.
Then one day, a giant noticed a man listening to a mountain. The man spoke, the mountain answered and the giant saw an opportunity. Up till then, the giants had regarded humanity as little more than food, only really taking an interest in them at mealtimes. But on closer inspection, these tiny mouselike versions of themselves were also capable of speech! This was a revelation to the giants who had just assumed the noises humans made were senseless squeaks.
Not long after, the first meeting was held between the tribes and the giants. Both sides agreed that the dragons would turn the land to ash given enough time and that only together could they save Albion and themselves. An accord was made. Providing the tribes respected the land and worked with the giants, the giants would stop eating the tribe.
A war followed that lasted for many years. Giants and humans joined forces with the great beasts of the land, throwing ferocity and numbers against the magical might of the dragons. In the end it took the sacrifice of the very oldest of the giants to finally turn the tide in their favour. Many thousands of tribal warriors died, along with countless animals. Nearly a whole generation of the giants were wiped out, the cost so high that when the war finally ended, there was no celebration.
This was in part because the threat had been contained rather than destroyed, for the dragon’s nature was immortal and no power in Albion could truly end them. The druids came together to perform a great ritual, forcing the dragons into a deep and endless sleep.
It is said that every mountain in Albion holds a dragon though that is not true. Some are imprisoned under the earth, others beneath mighty lakes. The locations are kept secret, known only to the most senior druids. Sometimes the dragons stir in their sleep and a lake will begin to boil or a mountain spurt lava but always the druids come to reinforce the magic and the dragons drift to sleep again.
From then on, the tribes and the giants became known as the Keepers of Albion, both for their role as dragon’s jailor and for a greater duty to protect the land from other threat.
In a day to day sense however, life returned to normal. Sometimes a giant accidentally ate a person. Sometimes the tribes would argue among themselves but, for around two hundred years, Albion enjoyed relative peace.
Then, a druid began to have ideas. His name was Merlin and he was popular among the young and more vulnerable, with talk of uniting the tribes and making changes, of creating new laws, of working the land in a different way. He argued that there would come a time when the dragons would wake once more and that, when that time came, they needed to be ready. The tribal elders did not like his radical talk and, after many arguments, it was agreed that it was best if Merlin was to leave. He did, and no small number followed him.
More years passed peacefully. The tribes occasionally heard about the strange acts of Merlin. Of his great stone houses and clanking men. The elders did not approve of the way he mined the treasures from the earth and urged Merlin to stop. Merlin ignored them. Tensions grew but never developed into conflict. Gradually the Keepers removed themselves, wanting nothing to do with Merlin’s folly.
Time proved Merlin’s predictions to be true and the great red dragon, Dauthir, rose from the earth, its cries stirring other nearby dragons from their slumber. Rather than send the dragons back to sleep as the Keepers had before, Merlin sought to use his new weapons to destroy them. A great battle was fought and the sky turned black. The Keepers watched from a distance, fearing the worst.
Three days passed before light came to Albion once more. It revealed the dragon to be dead but nobody celebrated. The troubles were far from over.
When Merlin’s great empire descended into war with itself, the tribal elders exchanged knowing looks and waited for the fools to wipe themselves out. However, Merlin tricked them into thinking that Morgana’s armies were a great threat to all of Albion. Little did the Keepers realise that it was their arrival on the battlefield that scared Morgana into deepening her relationship with the demons.
Not since the time of the dragons had such forces tore across Albion, culminating in Merlin’s ritual that cast back the demons, slaughtered the knights on both sides and blanketed the places of fiercest fighting under deep mists.
Shaking their heads, the Keepers returned to their homes to lick their wounds. A thousand years passed under the Keepers watchful eye while the mists remained, making areas of Albion unreachable, and stopping all access to the sea.
When the mists began to retreat, a terrible scar was revealed on the land, and around it, restless spirits stirred. The Keepers took this an omen of things to come and they were right.
Not long after strange humans arrived, wily and selfish like the Merlin of the stories. And elsewhere, old enemies crawl from their holes, the ones that consorted with demons, still fighting in Morgana’s name.
The Keepers see the threat of a new war and they are ready.