Sometimes called "The Homelands" by its denizens, long ago Ulgrotha was a remote plane ravaged by wars of sorcery between planeswalkers. The plane's mana had been diminished and damaged when the planeswalker Ravi, who later became Grandmother Sengir, rang the Apocalypse Chime at the end of those ancient wars.
Amongst the multi-verse that encompasses the game of Magic, most of the worlds already mentioned in the previous expansions and sources have been written about the plane of Dominaria, or the worlds immediately around Dominaria that are convenient for the Planeswalkers to travel to and from. The Homelands set is based on a world somewhat distant from these familiar places, a world distant enough that it would even be a trying journey even for one experienced in walking through the worlds.
Far back in distant history, the world was known to the all-knowing World-Sages as Ulgrotha, a word that is comparable to "garden" or "sanctum". Apart from being a world incredibly rich in mana and diverse life forms, it was not much different from any of the other worlds that connected to it, or made up the fabric of the multi-verse. On this world was a Citadel, a fortress belonging to a expansive group of planeswalkers known as the Tolgath. They were a powerful group of wizards directly opposed to an older group known as the Ancients. All the members of these rival groups were incredibly powerful sorcerers, and had a great deal of experience in artifice creation and wielding the forces of mana.
Making sure that this new threat did not grow strong enough to be dangerous, the repressive Ancients lay siege to the worlds the Tolgath held. Finally, the battle was joined at Ulgrotha, and all across this small world packs of wizards dueled each other, summoning creatures and casting spells of destruction and manipulation. The battle was so massive that at one point, by the coast of the Greater Sea, one of the Ancients' War-Lords was forced to rent open a rift from Ulgrotha to a different world entirely, just to fuel its spells.
In the end, after weeks of fighting, the Ancients finally lay assault upon the Citadel itself. A Tolgath wizard named Ravi returned to the fortress too late, and found it surrounded by the armies of the Ancients. For three days she watched helplessly as the walls and spells were breached, and the mental connections to her compatriots vanished one by one as they were killed or captured. Knowing it would be a matter of time before the Ancients discovered her, Ravi went to a place where a great Spire of basalt rock rose out of the ground. There, she lifted a small chime from where she had wore it around a chain on her neck, and gently rang it on the pommel of her knife. Quickly, she walked down the stairs into a caverns beneath the Spire, closed and sealed the huge door behind her, and climbed into a magical sarcophagus (Tawnos's Coffin type object), and closed the lid over her, just as the first effects of the chime were occurring.
The effects of the magical chime were monstrous, as the artifact caused a magical backlash that erupted across the entire world. The Chime, attuned to the mana patterns and streams of Ulgrotha, disrupted mana channels all over the planet. Any creature who required mana to survive perished, and all of the wizards who could not escape in time were burnt in the holocaust of colorless fire, as an entire world of energy surged against them. The land died, the energy channels were run dry, and most of the summoned creatures died within days, their lifeforce drank by the very soil they walked upon. Where before the rich earth had produced mana, now it drank mana and life from any creature who walked across its surface. Even the flyers couldn't glide forever.
Ravi had been given the Apocalypse Chime by her master in case of such an occasion; she knew that it would be a terrible thing to ring it, and she came to know just how terrible the object was as she lay in the sarcophagus. Being a wizard based on life and nature, feeling her ties to the land ripped away drove her to madness, and she was left with a suffocating feeling of solitude. Even through the Coffin protected her against the magical backlash of the Chime, the very feel of all of her connections and relations fragment to nothingness caused her to regress into an unstable state.
After a week within stasis, the coffin was supposed to open, providing egress and thus escape from the battlefield. But her master had neglected to give Ravi the source of mana that would power the Coffin to open. Trapped, Ravi lay in stasis, awake, unable to dream, aware of every passing second for the centuries she was locked within the artifact. With all of her land-ties gone, and no means to generate the power to open the lock, her spirit was rapidly broken, and claustrophobia set in. Madness does not even begin to describe the state of her mentality.
But one location on Ulgrotha withstood the devastation. Where the Ancient War-Lord had rent open a mana-gate deep beneath the surface, mana still poured through. The summoned creatures in the vicinity of the Rift survived the effects of the Chime, as the steady flow of mana kept the area alive and not drinking; an oasis amidst a planet thirsty for energy. Most of the humans took to the plains to the North, while the Goblins and other humanoids found a home within the Mountains to the South, naming them the "Koskun Mountains". The Minotaurs that had already lived secluded within the vales of the mountain-range continued with their lives in much the same fashion, and were relatively unaffected by this dramatic turn of events. The swamps were for the most part unpopulated, and most of the sea creatures that survived along the shallow shores were destroyed by the devastation. The forest still contained many creatures and monsters, some indigenous to the area, others summoned and left behind by the Tolgath and Ancient duelists.
Most of the small planet was left desolate. The climate changed, and where the trees died and withered, grasses, brush and hardy plants survived, as did the smaller lizards, insects, reptiles and other creatures that did not depend on mana to survive. But where the rift still poured mana through from deep beneath the ground, the rich concentration of foreign mana made the oasis a paradise of health and vitality amongst the devastation. Not even a trace remained of the many Tolgath towers and structures that used to dot the landscape around the Citadel, let alone any sign of the individual battles or duels.
A long time ago, there was a planeswalker by the name of Feroz. Feroz was a kind and gentle human whose special trait, apart from his ability to walk the planes and harness the energies of the plains and islands, was his uncanny knack for understanding and learning the languages of nearly any creature. With the aid of powerful spells, Feroz prevented his body from aging, and protected himself against predators and enemies with powerful artifacts he had acquired during his travels.
For lifetimes, Feroz did little but wander from plane to plane, seeing the sights and exploring the wonders of the multi-verse. As result, he gained a level of wisdom and understanding few planeswalkers achieve, for Feroz knew that the multi-verse was connected on every level, rather than just understanding it as most wizards claim. He had explored most of the hospitable worlds and had begun to suspect the relationships between them all.
Thus, after having conversed with so many creatures and beings, and studied so many cultures, the practice of summoning creatures by wizards had come to disgust Feroz. After traveling the worlds for so many decades and seeing so many cultures decimated by wizards summoning them for duels, Feroz had come to despise those planeswalkers that summoned creatures from their birth-planes, away from their families and homes. But what could one planeswalker do against the entire multi-verse?
To have so many creatures die on battlefields for empty causes, to have so many creatures helplessly slaughtering each other in meaningless duels infuriated him. Feroz was a wizard who summoned no creatures to fight his battles and duels, but instead defended himself with a collection of simple spells and potent artifacts. Because of his hatred for the summoners, Feroz rarely interacted with them, and rarely accepted any challenges from them. But when a cause was great enough, or there were lives of innocents in the balance, Feroz would duel until his opponent had no spells left to cast, then banish the wizard to a far away plane, preferably one which would take them years to travel back from.
Portal to the Homelands
One day, Feroz planeswalked from one little known world to another, and encountered a mountain-aboriginal tribe of Minotaurs. He had appeared in the Koskun Mountains, within reach of the Rift. He was struck by the ritual-tattoos of one particular Minotaur. These tattoos bore an uncanny resemblance to the relationship of the five colors of mana. This proved to be more than a coincidence because Feroz was able to detect the spark of embryonic planewalking ability within the Minotaur.
The importance of this individual could not be overestimated to Feroz, who decided to settle with the Minotaurs until he could educate the novice planewalker. Feroz would only depart once the Minotaur could protect his clan and his home from the predations of other planewalkers.
The Minotaur, Sandruu, proved to be a natural. Within a few years Feroz felt ready to explore the Homelands with Sandruu in tow. Feroz was quickly drawn to the abundance of life in the city of Onella, on the Northern Plains. Upon entering the city he became aware of another planeswalker. Girding himself for possible conflict, he was relieved to discover a planeswalker named Serra, one whom shared his beliefs in the non-exploitation of fellow creatures. Where Feroz was wise, older and well-travelled, Serra was a headstrong woman who had settled in this world. Feroz was equally impressed with Serra's guardians, whom she called, "her Angels".
Serra's Angels were not living beings, but instead incarnations of white mana inhabited by war-spirits. The war-spirits that possessed the incarnations did so of free will, for if the physical body died, they would suffer no lasting damage, and would eventually come to Serra to be reformed, or journey to a place where white mana was prevalent and take physical form again.
Battle for the Homelands
Eventually Feroz's admiration for Serra turned to love, and their relationship bloomed. After but a short time, he proposed to her on one of the peaks within the Koskun Mountains, the site of his original entry into the world. With his residency cemented, he released Sandruu to explore the multi-verse, while he stayed behind to watch over the world he was beginning to be quite fond of.
Sandruu sought the wisdom of several planeswalkers, but his trusting nature was to lead to his downfall. He fell in love with a planeswalker named Kristina, who taught him much about life and magic. But he crossed paths with the ferocious Taysir, a user of all the colors of magic who also loved Kristina. He was caught off guard by the ferocity of Taysir's attack, and fled back to the safety of the Homelands. Unfortunately, his panic made him careless, and instead of reaching Feroz, Sandruu fell to earth near the Minotaur caves. Taysir followed him, and in front of Sandruu's tribe, imprisoned him on a faraway plane of existence.
Sensing Sandruu's distress, Feroz appeared in time to witness the Minotaur's fate, but could do nothing to prevent it. Confronting Taysir, enraged at the banishment of his friend, Feroz engaged Taysir in battle. Taysir forced the Minotaurs to fight for him. Alarmed, Feroz attempted to end the battle without harming the Minotaurs but this only forced Taysir to desperately Earthquake the battleground resulting in the destruction of the Minotaur's ancestral pictoglyph caves, and the loss of centuries of history, tales and heroic saga. The aftershocks wreaked havoc with the Koskun Peaks as a whole.
From the rubble Feroz was able to grab one of a dead Minotaur's knives and embedded it into Taysir's skull - it was the first time he had ever actively taken a life, and it disturbed him greatly. The remaining Minotaurs disposed of the planeswalkers body, and then mourned for their tribe. Unknown to the tribe Taysir was not dead; his soul had been taken by the ancestral gods of the Minotaurs, where they held him for many decades, temporarily stripping him of his planeswalking abilities and showing him the error of his ways. Only when he was redeemed would they return Taysir to his body, now a shriveled husk lying on the graveyard pile deep within the Minotaur caves.
Shortly thereafter, Feroz and Serra were married in a Minotaur ceremony, and received wedding tattoos on their wrists, as well as giving each other the customary ring.
The World of the Homelands
Feroz and Serra began to dedicate their time to researching their home in more detail, and they found that most of the world had already been ravaged by a great calamity of some kind many centuries beforehand. Except for their small section of the planet, the entire world's mana channels had been drained or destroyed. The world was mostly desolate, with only shallow scrubs for plants and inhabited by a variety of poisonous insects. It was a world without any significant vegetation or habitation of any kind, or any marks of any kind of ancient civilization. To travel through these wastelands was a sure invitation to death, for the life drained from any traveler who ventured across the soil, as if the very earth were drinking the life from them to replace what it has lost. To travel by water or air was safe, but if you ventured too close to the hungry land, you would suffer the same fate. This world had once had been a beautiful place, but some terrible event had happened that turned the world into nothing better than a desolate nightmare.
They learned that only one section of the world had any life at all. A well-populated place on the edge of a vast ocean, with sprawling forests, high mountains and plains that reached from the Sea to the very edge of the desolation. Humans were prevalent on the plains, monsters and creatures in the forest and a variety of humanoids in the mountains. The only large structure in evidence was a huge stone castle, dwarven built, that was built overlooking the swamps. Feroz tried to enter into the castle, but an overwhelming sense of dread kept him from exploring the interior. He had an idea that there was something ancient and evil residing within, and though his curiosity was peaked, he had no wish to find out what it was.
After a few months of research, Serra and Feroz were able to discern few answers to the mystery, save that the mysterious and powerful source of mana that brought life to the land came from deep under the earth, and that it was what caused the small domain to grow amidst the total desolation of the world. The ocean floor near the inhabited part of the world still had many fish, sea monsters and even a small population of seafolk that herded sea-cows.
Serra's Isle, Feroz's Ban.
The couple set up their home on a small island far away from the coast, and then proceeded to build a paradise there. With Serra's magics, they infused the small island with mana from the faraway continent, making it into a beautiful and fertile island, and no longer a place where the very earth would sap their life. Using his own sorcery, Feroz brought great blocks of granite and marble from the mountains of faraway worlds, and used them to build a great villa that faced over the deep blue sea. Over the two years it took to construct the house, Serra traveled across a number of planes and collected a variety of creatures, ones that would live well on the isolated island. By the time she returned with her last trip's collection of pets and creatures, the house that Feroz built was done - great standing columns, shallow reflecting pools, and even a garden he had grown by linking with Serra's mana spell. Albatrosses as flying mounts and spellbattery-powered skiffs to sail the waves.
In the main tower overlooking the largest of the reflecting pools, Serra and Feroz then settled down to work. Studying the sole mana stream available to the world, ancient tomes on spell construction, and analyzing one of Serra's artifacts, a device that cast an incredibly strong barrier of force, they endeavored day and night for nearly a year. Then, on the night when the flow of mana was at its strongest, (when it was solstice on the world where the mana came from, they figured) Feroz cast a powerful spell, Feroz's Ban, that sealed his world off from the other planes. Proof against other planeswalkers either entering or stealing the creatures of the world, and invisible from scrying or even detection, the world became shrouded from the rest of the multi-verse like a ship in a bottle of volcanic glass.
To the point of view from the few other planeswalkers that even knew of the place, the world suddenly disappeared, and the gates vanished. But in a world with so few resources to use, it was of no loss to them. And in a multiverse where worlds and gates occasionally came and went with the cycles of the years, there was no great panic.
Over the next ten generations, Feroz and Serra worked hard on maintaining their illusions, keeping their eternal middle-age/youth, and keeping up the Ban. But, on a stormy midsummers night, Feroz suffered a fatal accident in his laboratory - an elemental he had been studying had gotten free and committed grievous harm against him. By the time that Serra reached him, he was near death. With his last breaths, Feroz begged her to leave this world, that she should never tell anyone of what they had done, and to leave "their children" to live their own lives. But, before he could tell her why, Feroz died, beyond the reach of her magics.
She was very angry with him, and soon found herself within the City of Onella, capitol of the Citizenship of Aysen, wandering the streets in disguise. While observing, she witnessed an accident about to happen, and tried to use her powers to "change" the scene so the man would not be seriously hurt. But as fate has quirks, the man instead was killed, and she quickly learned why Feroz had asked her to leave the Homelands, and leave the inhabitants to their own destinies and fates. For years Feroz had guided Serra in her actions, and without him there as her partner, a lot of the responsibilities she had taken lightly now had a much more serious nature.
Serra buried Feroz in an unmarked grave near the spot where he had first come into this world, atop the Koskun Mountains. She also erected a huge stone wall, and burned the story of the world into the stones in wizard's runes - if any planeswalker were to breach the Ban, it is likely that this place would be the point where they would come through, and thus would hopefully read the story of Feroz's life on the wall, and his dreams, then leave the world unharmed.
When all was finished, she opened the one-way gate for a moment, and stepped through into the outside world. When the gate closed behind her, closing her out forever, she dropped to her knees and wept.
Serra was killed less than a month later by another planeswalker who coveted her wedding band. He believed it to be magical in nature, and thus challenged her to a duel over it. Trapped in a world she now hated, never to return to her paradise or to the arms of her husband, she accepted the duel, and fought the wizard for two days. Finally, as the opposing wizard was raising a final series of spells, she disenchanted her own protection circles, and let herself and the wedding ring be blasted with lightning and fire. One of the spectators, a young priest by the name of Angus, couldn't stand to watch the wizard blast Serra as she lay on the ground, helpless. With a strong blow from his walking staff he knocked the wizard unconscious, and watched as the man dissolved into a puff of smoke.
Angus then carried Serra back to his house, and tried to heal her as best he could, but she had been damaged too badly by her opponent. In the two days before she died, in confidence she told the story of her life to the priest, and the story of Feroz's life and dream. When she finally died from her injuries, he buried her in an unmarked grave in the hills overlooking Sursi. When his life dream, his Cathedral he had spent fifty years building and overseeing was finally finished and dedicated on his seventieth birthday, he dedicated it to Serra and her life - thus, the Cathedral of Serra in Legends.
It was twenty years ago that Feroz died and Serra was killed in a sorcerer's duel. The Ban that Feroz created was still intact, but it was built without knowledge of the Gate in the Dwarven City deep beneath Castle Sengir. Over time, the mere presence of the Dwarven Gate has been unravelling the Ban, and now, without Serra or Feroz to tune and strengthen the spell, the Ban is beginning to unravel. The world of the Homelands is open to outsiders once again, and the planeswalkers have felt the pulse of the world re-joining Dominia once again, like sharks smelling blood in the water. If the Dwarven Gate can be closed or destroyed, the Ban will reinstate, and keep the world safe from harm, likely forever... And thus begins the game!