The history of the lands of Dawn of Legends is quite similar to the history of these lands of our world. However, there are some rather critical differences. The following outlines these.

Ancient Times
In the centuries B.C.E. (Before Common Era), the Celtic peoples populated much of Europe. Although the ancient Celts varied in description, they had a reasonably similar culture. The religion of the Celts in particular helped to unify tradition. The ancient druidic faith held the sum of all the Celt people’s knowledge and laws.

The ancient druids generally maintained a neutrality in politics and gained impartiality in as judges of important social matters among the Celtic peoples. It has been said that a druid could stop a battle between warring tribes in these ancient times simply by walking between the armies. None challenged the authority and power of the druids.

Boudicea, A Bard’s Tale

The Romans line every hill,
Spears bright and deadly still,
Blood red with silver shields,
Leaving behind only bloody fields,
Grass green and alive before their advance,
Oh, Boudicea, we need your dance,

Our children killed and women raped,
Only the gods allow escape,
Death follows the Roman March,
Lifeless eyes watch from every arch,
Grass green and alive before their advance,
Oh, Boudicea, we need your dance,

Chariots of fire led the way,
Pulled by steeds of the fey,
Armed with spears and deathly frowns,
They descended on the Roman towns,
In the valley of death, the Romans staid,
Oh, Boudicea, do not fade,

Mounted druids upon their steeds,
Armed with might and righteous deeds,
Made the Romans pay their due,
In the name of all that were lost, even the few,
In the valley of death, the Romans staid,
Oh, Boudicea, do not fade,

On foot they came to defeat the Red,
Vowing to fight until their enemies were dead,
The men of the green and nature’s own,
Destroyed the Romans in name of the Stones,
In the valley of death, the Romans staid,
Oh, Boudicea, do not fade,

The final battle was a glorious fight,
As Britains and druids clashed at night,
Fire wafted from many a torch,
As the valley of death was burned and scorched,
We will not forget the price you paid,
Oh, Boudicea we will remember, you will not fade

Coming of the Romans

The conquests of Julius Ceasar targeted the druids as the nerve center and unifying force of the Gallic Celts.

Ceasar was able to use politics to divide the Gallic Celts and eventually subdue them. Later emperors repeated this tactic in Britain and eventually drove the druids to the Isle of Mona, called Anglesey today. Soon the Roman governor moved to destroy the great druid sanctuary.

It is at this time, the year 63 Common Era (c.e.) a new development occurred. The great warrior-queen of the Iceni tribe, Boudicea, outraged by her torture, the rape of her daughters, and the confiscation of her people’s lands at the hands of the Romans after the death of her husband, lead a great uprising. Armies of British war chariots, cavalry, and infantry descended upon the greatest of the new Roman cities in Britain and slaughtered the garrisons and Romans there. The Romans seemed unable to withstand the furor of the enraged warrior-queen.

It is here the history of Dawn of Legends splits from the time line of our world. Historically, the Roman governor did not hear of the rebellion until after he had destroyed the last druid stronghold. Yet, in the world of Dawn of Legends, the Roman legions never made it as far as Anglesey before word of revolt reached them! The governor, concerned he may loose his grasp of Britain, brought his legion about to face Queen Boudicea. The tale of this confrontation is told and retold as a proud story of the strength of the British. Yet, it is also a tragic one. The army of the Queen of the Iceni was defeated and chose to poison herself rather than submit to the Romans in defeat. Boudicea perished with her army in the final confrontation with Rome.

The Druids’ Salvation
The druids used well the gift of time given to them by the sacrifice of the tragic queen. Knowing the Romans would return to destroy Anglesey and any fragment of British power there, the druids were able to use the distraction to retreat into hiding. There they could prepare for the day when they might return to guide the British once more. They remained hidden for nearly 350 years.

The Roman Withdrawal
There finally came the day when the might of Rome settled fitfully into the throes of its own twilight. The end of the fourth century c.e. saw the removal of the Roman troops from the western and northern frontiers of Roman Britain. This force represented one third of the entire Roman military, such was the pressure to keep Britain protected from her enemies and uprising. Now Rome needed this strength to protect herself from rampaging barbarian tribes.

It was during the fifth century when there arose one Macsen Wledig, called in Latin Magnus Maximus. He was a powerful man who gained the support of thousands of Romano-British (Romanized British). Macsen Wledig conquered the Western Roman Empire and finally was stopped in the east by Emperor Theodosius. Still, it was a proud time for the British, for it was said that the power of Rome rested upon the shoulders of British soldiers. With him died the combined military might of Britain and dreams of a new empire.

After this time, there was a period of dark days when a weakened Britain reeled under the attacks of the Picts and the Irish. Yet years later, during the reign of Vortigern, Rome called to Britain for aid. The British, under the war leader Riothamus responded and came to Rome’s aid once more. Although Riothamus and his army fought the Visigoths valiantly, he was betrayed by Rome in the end. Soldiers of Riothamus conquered and settled in the area of mainland Europe known as Brittany, while Riothamus himself disappeared in the lands of the Burgundians.

The First High King
In the power vacuum left by Rome in the first few decades of the fifth century, there arose a powerful King who claimed authority over all the British. His name was Vortigern.

Vortigern was faced with Irish raiders in the west and Picts invading the north. To defend his kingdom, he chose to emulate the Romans in employing federates. He hired foreign Saxons as had the Romans before him, to guard the north and in payment gave them the Isle of Thanet in the Thames estuary, and an area in north eastern Britain called Deira. King Vortigern used the Thanet settlers to intimidate Ambrosius who was an influential Roman descendant and was his chief rival among the British.

To his credit, Vortigern respected the old ways of the British. However, he alienated the Romanized British who followed the Roman Catholic Church. Ambrosius, who was of a strong Roman line, inspired trust in the Romano-British far more than a High King who gave portions of his own land to the hated Saxons. Vortigern stationed Saxon mercenaries on Thanet to remain a threat to Ambrosius. To this end, Vortigern’s gambit worked. In fact, Vortigern was even able to stop the invading Picts with the aid of the Saxons.

High Kings of Britain
Vortigern (Powys)
Vortimer (Powys)
Abrosius Aurelianus (Brittany)
Uther Pendragon (Dumnonia)
Arthur Pendragon (Domnonia)
Cuneglasus (Gwynedd)
(none currently)

Druids Resurfaced
The druids came out of hiding in this troubled time. Druid teachings forbade interference in internal Celtic politics. However, the Archdruid also known as the Merlin and who led all the druid circles, foresaw the grave threat the Saxons could represent to all British. High King Vortigern, in his pride, would not listen to the Merlin and soon there was war with Ambrosius.

Although Ambrosius was eventually defeated by the High King, Vortigern’s British forces were depleted and his wealth drained. Ambrosius’ sons, Ambrosius Aurelianus and his younger brother Uther, were taken into hiding in Brittany. Finally, Vortigern was unable to pay the price the Saxon mercenaries demanded.

Much to the chagrin of the then king of Ceint, Vortigern attempted to mollify the Saxons by giving them this kingdom. The Saxons, thrilled at their success in negotiating a major gain without a fight, invited their brothers and sisters from across the Channel. The Advent of the Saxons, an event foreseen and feared by the druids had arrived.

The druids approached King Vortigern’s son, Vortimer. Here, they found a more sympathetic ear. At the Archdruids urging, Vortimer proclaimed himself High King and was able to quickly and bloodlessly remove Vortigern from his throne. High King Vortimer was soon joined and supported by his younger brother Catigern, and together they put into action a plan to remove the Saxons from Britain.

Meanwhile, the leaders of the Saxon forces, Hengist and his brother Horsa, received boatloads of warriors from their homelands. Battle raged back and forth across the lowlands of eastern Britain as Vortimer drove the Saxons back to the Isle of Thanet and finally the Continent. In a dramatic battle with the Saxons in which both Horsa and Catigern were killed, a stalemate was reached. For three decades from the middle of the fifth century there was a shaky kind of peace.

All to soon after the battle that ended the lives of Horsa and young Catigern, Vortimer was ousted by his own father. High King Vortigern orchestrated the murder of his own son. Aged and desperate, Vortigern arranged a parlay with the Saxons, who were by now threatening a renewal of hostilities.

Night of the Long Knives
Vortigern and his nobles agreed to a meeting at Stonehenge. No weapons were to be brought to the parlay. Yet the Saxons under Hengist, whose vengeance for the death of his brother Horsa still burned in his heart, came armed. The weapon for which the Saxons earned their name, the Seax, did its terrible work. The great nobles of the British were murdered and Vortigern held captive.

The British were forced to pay a high price for the return of their High King. The Saxons gained wealth as well as territories comprising what became Essex (East Saxons), Sussex (South Saxons), and Mercia. High King Vortigern died an old man soon thereafter.

The hope of Britain in the last thirty years of the fifth century, and that of the druids, now lay in the hands of the Roman, Ambrosius Aurelianus who returned from Brittany and managed to consolidate a hold on the High Kingship. Ambrosius Aurelianus fought a number of inconclusive battles across Britain against the Saxons. The danger mounted, and the druids fretted. For Aurelianus was more disposed to listen to his Roman Catholic advisors than the druids themselves, or even the Christian Celtic Church. Sadly, Ambrosius Aurelianus was mortally wounded in battle and passed into the Underworld before Britain could be made strong again.

Uther, King of Britain
Finally, it was left to Ambrosius Aurelianus’ brother, Uther. To the relief of the Celtic Church and the druids alike, Uther was in the beginning a more practical man. It was precisely this openness to all the religions of Britain which caused him trouble in the beginning. King Uther was forced to war with the southern Romano-British to force their support. In addition, renewed Pict attacks in the north demanded attention. Finally, there was the ever-present danger of the Saxons who were all too willing to test the mettle of the new High King.

Eventually Uther managed to solidify his hold on the British throne. The druids sent the mightiest among them to advise the king. He was, of course, the Merlin. Merlin and the druids had faith in Uther in the beginning, but Uther's reign was not meant to be. The story of Uther and his passion for Igraine, wife of Gorlois and the ensuing struggle is the stuff of legend now. These legends very much parallel those same legends of our own world.

In the end, a union between Uther and Igraine occurred and Gorlois was killed by Uther’s men. The child of this union was taken by Merlin to be trained in the wisdom of the druids. Uther’s reign began to slip from his grasp and ended in civil war. Uther himself was mortally wounded. He set a geas (pronounced GESH) upon the throne of the High King of Britain: Only one who could draw Uther’s sword from the stone would become King. So it was that for a time, the kings of Britain were not united and continued to weaken. The Saxons consolidated their gains and prepared to launch a new war.

King Arthur
The stories of Arthur’s life and times have also become legend and strongly parallel many of the Arthurian legends of our own world. Some of the stories are true for Dawn of Legends and some are not. It is left to the reader’s discretion which of these legends have influenced his own Dawn of Legends campaign and which have not.

As it is well known in legend, Arthur was the one; the boy who would be king of all Britain for he alone could draw the sword in the stone. His famous story has been told and retold many times. Arthur won the confidence of the Cetls of Britain, beat the Saxons in twelve great battles and secured peace for a generation. Arthur was the king that all the British since have most loved... and most mourned.

Arthur’s illustrious reign ended on the fields of Camlann where he faced the treachery of his own son, Mordred, in battle. Arthur and Mordred were each mortally wounded in this final confrontation. It is said that father and son, finally reconciled, were taken by three fairy queens to the Isle of Avalon, a place steeped in the mystery of the Otherworld. There, Arthur would be mended of his wounds and await a time when Britain needed him once more.

The Years After Arthur
The passing of Arthur ended many British hopes, and the High Kingship was badly weakened. The next man to claim the position of High King was named Cyngen, or Cuneglasus in Latin. He made a strong effort to curb the ever growing power of the Saxons, but was never able to gain the support of all the British Kings. After Cyngen’s reign there were no more High Kings for a couple generations.

The Saxons
During this time, the Saxons learned from both their successes and their failures in their wars against the British. The Saxons’ culture encouraged warfare and expansion at the expense of their enemies. To this end, they mirrored their British counterparts and placed in power their own over-king. He was called Bretwalda, meaning King of Britain. Such a position put the Saxons on a more equal footing with their British counterparts. It also gave them a strong leadership which they wielded like a sword against their sworn enemies.

Aelle (Sussex)
Ceawlen (Wessex)
Ethelbert (Kent)
Redwalk (East Anglia)
Edwin (Deira)
Oswald (Bernicia)
Edwin(Deira & Bernicia, current)

The Saxons’ return after the death of Vortimer gained them all the land they had lost to Vortimer, and after the Night of the Long Knives, they gained a great deal more territory. Yet, the campaigns of Arthur curbed the expansion of the Saxons until the mid sixth century.

† Poem by Paul Comstock.