Explorers of Barsaive
Over the course of time, the magic level of the world of Earthdawn grows and subsides, at times imbuing the denezens of the world with magical abilities, at other times not.
The positive side of this magical cycle is that for periods of up to 5,000 years the world is magically active. On the negative side, the surge of magical energy enables dreadful creatures from astral space to cross into the physical world. The creatures are collectively known at the Horrors. At the peak of the magical energy cycle, the Horrors cross into the physical world, laying waste to the land in an orgy of destruction known as the Scourge.
Scholars across Barsaive now place the beginning of the Scourge in the one thousand eighth year of the Throal calendar. The Therans count that date as the year TE 565. Both use the same indicator for the beginning of the Scourge, the sealing up of Thera. As a center and focus of magical power, Thera was beset by the Horrors earlier and with greater severity than the rest of the world. Thera’s last words to her subject nations were wishes of luck and safety, and an affirmation of her power.
Though some groups had previously sealed themselves off, the rest of the world saw the sealing of Thera as the last great sign that the Scourge had begun. Horrors appeared with increasing frequency and became more than a match for local militia, constabulary, and brave adventurers.
Within twenty years of the sealing of Thera, the rising tide of Horrors cut off virtually all communication between kingdoms. Even astral space became too polluted to access, and magicians the world over learned the true benefits of the spell matrices devised by the Therans. Mindless herds of destructive Horrors roamed the land, consuming every scrap of life they could find. Other, more intelligent Horrors probed existing defenses, and battered their way through weaker ones. Still others infiltrated society and slipped with the people into their kaers. They waited and revealed themselves, violently or subtly, after the kaer had been sealed.
Sages theorized that this cresting of the magical cycle has occurred at least one other time in the past, bringing an earlier Scourge. According to the few documents and creatures remaining from that time, the level of magic dropped steadily after the Scourge ended, eventually disappearing altogether. After the most recent Scourge, however, the magic level ebbed but did not disappear. Magic scholars in Barsaive predicted that by the end of the Scourge the world’s magic level would have reached a certain point, then continued to drop. In fact the Scourge ended earlier than predicted, and instead of steadily ebbing away, the magic level simply stopped dropping and then remained steady.
The magic level has remained stable and relatively high for the past eighty years. Many scholars have devoted their lives to unraveling this mystery. Others believe that the workings of magic and the Universe are beyond our ken, and we shouldn’t even attempt to comprehend its deeper ways. Though debate over the ambient magical energy of the world rages on in Earthdawn, one thing remains true. The magic of the world is stabilized at the moment. While it seems possible to scholars that the age of magic will endure for all time, eventually it will drop again until all magic in the world is gone, only for it to return again in the age of Shadowrun.