In the beginning, there was war.
Aetheria is a realm sown in death and watered with blood. Its first war came when the mortal races sought to overthrow their draconic masters, and the land was shattered by cataclysmic magical forces. In the end the dragons were defeated, laying their dying curse on the road East as the Dragon War came to a halt with the Battle of Bleeding Heavens.
Civlizations grew and prospered, and the realm's races built.
Peace is never eternal.
In time a man rose above the rest, a self-made Emperor who launched a crusade against all who were not men. He claimed divine right, speaking of visions from the gods telling that humankind was made in the creators' sacred image. His decree was simple: all lesser beings would bend the knee or be broken.
From the North came the savage tribes, fending off The Holy Empire of Man with axe and hammer. Strangers from the East defended their borders with steel and honor. The mountains and rivers of the West yielded the folk from beneath the earth. Each one made their stand against the mad Emperor.
The realm shuddered beneath these armies, and Aetheria was a land divided. The Unnamed War was a brief but chaotic time.
For death itself cannot die.
To the South rose a power more fearsome than all the realm's armies, an evil old as Aetheria. One dragon rose above death and raised his army from the corpses of the Empire and its foes, unleashing decay upon them all, seeking to rule over an undying realm with his fell powers.
The factions banded together against this unholy foe, and the War of the Deathless ended with a realm shattered but very much alive.
In the end, there were the Guilds.
With the Alliance's battle against death itself finished, it was the Guilds who rose to power. Forging order out of the battered realm, they have become the rulers of Aetheria through law and coin.
One Guild stands out: the Thornfist Mercenaries, who sell sword and spell to whoever has the gold for it. They take on any request as long as they're paid, and only have one rule: no one backs out of a job before it's done.
You are mercenaries in this age ruled by gold.