The first of the Great Maelstroms occurred in the Shadowlands in 476 AD. As its name implies, it is the first major storm of its type to strike the lands of the dead and unleash the full fury of Oblivion on the underworld. Until the coming of the Sixth Great Maelstrom, it was also considered by the historians of the dead to be the most devastating of the Great Maelstroms.
This Maelstrom was a result of the fall of the great city and civilization of Rome, the epitome of human thought and reason in the Western world. The rapid decline of Rome caused the darkness and death there to resonate in the Tempest and Labyrinth and create more Spectres than normal. Stirred into action, they crossed the Shroud and Skinrode the barbarians of Europe as they attacked the once-mighty Rome, and as the barbarians fell, they crossed into the Shadowlands. Upon arriving and seeing another mighty empire to conquer, the tribesmen gathered and fell upon Stygia. The Spectres followed them, assisting them in their fight against the wraiths.
The war raged in Stygia, causing great destruction. The mightiest wraiths, including the Ferrymen and Charon, fought against the invaders. So distracted were the armies of Stygia that when Rome actually fell in the Skinlands, there was great disorder as Charon and his people tried to both continue their defense and guide and protect the Enfants of Rome. When a great roar sounded from the Labyrinth, Charon, who had missed the warning signs in the chaos, fruitlessly sounded the alarm gongs and tried to get the wraiths of Stygia to safety.
The First Great Maelstrom sprang forth with a terrible fury and wave after wave of Spectres, fierce winds, and horrific debris quickly reduced the unprepared city to ruin. Citadels were burned, ancient buildings were demolished, and even the Onyx Tower took direct blows from the fists and weapons of Spectres. Countless wraiths who could not find shelter in time were destroyed by the storm. Others managed to hide away. Many had their faith in Charon’s ability to protect them shattered.
Charon and the Ferrymen finally managed to chase away the armies of Oblivion, only to face the fact that their magnificent empire of the dead was essentially no more. Vowing to never let Stygia again fall, Charon was spurred into the actions that eventually created the Deathlords and allowed him to crown himself Emperor of Stygia.
Secret History Edit
Truth be told, Charon's own deeds contributed to the First Great Maelstrom. The Tithe of the Dead demanded payment from the wraiths who entered Stygia, and if they could not pay in coin, they would pay with their eyes or hands instead. Many of these maimed and blinded wraiths ended up in the Labyrinth, where they pleaded with Oblivion to destroy the Underworld that had mutilated and abused them - and because the time was right, their prayers were heard. The First Great Maelstrom erupted from the Void, and the Shadow-eaten tithe-maimed rode its winds.