The Trials of Atlantis
The civilization of Atlantis was long-lived and prosperous. Their achievements in magical technology were unmatched among the ancient kingdoms of the world. With their magical supremacy, the Atlanteans spread throughout the world, interacting with (and conquering) other peoples as necessary. The Atlanteans fully shared their knowledge of magic to other peoples, but only if those others were deemed worthy. To assess the worthiness of a culture, a series of Trials were created. Anyone that successfully completed these trials was granted insight into the powerful Atlantean magic.
To create the Trials, the Atlanteans built separate planes of existence and populated them with monsters and beasts taken from the many different cultures they had encountered in their expansion. The lands and beasts of the Trials were bound by magic to play specific roles in the Trials.
The Atlanteans knew that their civilization would not last forever, and they built their Trials to last for centuries even after Atlantis faded from the face of the earth. With this foresight, through the use of the Trials they could continue to spread the knowledge of their magical power - even long after they themselves ceased to exist
The Fall of Atlantis
Atlantis was a civilization that had advanced further than any in magical technologies. They were always seeking more knowledge, and they were not afraid of experimenting with the new things they discovered. This was their downfall.
There was a time when the magical technology of Atlantis advanced further than their understanding of that magic. There is no known record of what magical technology the Atlanteans were experimenting before their destruction, or what it was they were trying to accomplish with it. (Legend has it that they were trying to create cities in the sky. Cities, that didn?t just hover in the air, but traveled and attempted to control the weather and the environment around them.) Whatever it was, the result of the application of new magic resulted in the catastrophic destruction of Atlantis. In one day and one night the skies crackled and split, the oceans rose, and the land of Atlantis exploded from within in a fiery volcanic blast. What happened to any possible survivors of the Atlantis cataclysm is unknown. All that remains now are ruined pieces of the once great civilization and the planes of trials that they created.
The planes of trials were affected by the catastrophic destruction of Atlantis. The magic weakened, and while the planes were spared complete destruction, they did suffer some of the effects of the catastrophe. Some areas were flooded, others were altered environmentally, but the magic of Atlantis protected the planes from the worst. But while the magic of the planes kept them from destruction, it can no longer keep the areas pristine as in the time of Atlantis. Now, the structures show signs of decay and age, and areas that suffered some of the effects of Atlantis' destruction were never rebuilt. The magic's purpose is now solely to keep the planes in existence.
The area that suffered the greatest effects was the entrance to the first set of trials, known as Oceanus. Oceanus was built as a representation of what was finest in the Atlantean kingdom. The builders of the planes felt that the first impression made on participants should be of the architectural wonders of Atlantis. As Oceanus symbolized the glory of the kingdom, so did it come to symbolize the destruction of Atlantis. Much of the land was sunk into the ocean, leaving many underwater sections of the city and islands filled with ruins. Likewise, the creatures of the first Trials have departed greatly from the original tests, corrupting and twisting the intent of the creators of the Trials into new and, sometimes, more deadly perils as they evolved on their own and formed their own societies.
In summary, though it has been many centuries since the fall of Atlantis, the planes remain largely intact, yet perhaps somewhat altered from the intent of the Atlanteans. Many magical treasures and secrets of enormous power await heroes of enough skill, knowledge, and daring.
The Finding of Atlantis
For many years now since the death of Arthur, the remnants of his realm have been locked in a bitter stalemate. The realms of Midgard, Hibernia, and Albion have fought one another with little result, one realm holding sway for a time, only to be thrown back to their own shores.
Always the wise men and women of each realm have searched for a secret power that could help tip the scales and give them the strength to triumph once and for all.
In each realm the same thing happened. No one knows what triggered it, but the leaders and selected people of each realm received a vision of a strange and amazing land. The vision showed of people participating in competitions against fantastical creatures. Then the vision changed to show some brave souls being welcomed into a very large, elegant building while others stood beside them and cheered. As the vision faded, the voice spoke, whispering of the great abilities and power that awaited successful heroes in the lands of Atlantis.
In each realm, the leaders gathered to discuss the visions they had seen. At first, there was skepticism as to the authenticity of the visions. Some folk said the visions were sent by the gods, while others thought that they were sent by some magical source. Still others thought that false visions had been sent by their enemies to distract and deceive them. The skeptical ones soon changed their minds, as others in each land came forward and spoke of the visions they had received. Although they could not agree on the source, they all soon agreed that the visions were real.
Each realm organized expeditions of scholars and explorers to follow the instructions set out in the visions, and searched for the lost realm. Far into the frightful seas that encircled the known world, they discovered the remnants of a once-great land. Only a few scattered islands, dotted with ruins of magnificent architecture, remained. Each realm stumbled upon a different island in this vast, watery ruin and began to work to unlock the secrets of Atlantis. They discovered the Halls of Heroes, magical portals that allowed access to the Planes of Trial, and began to send through parties to investigate.
Soon word spread through each realm - that the other two had also received invitations to participate in the trials. The race was now on to see which realm would be the first to gain the knowledge and power of Atlantis.