In the sea-drowned and monster-haunted world of Toil, an adventurous man or woman without a ship to call home is a lost soul and not long for life. Captains of sail and black-powder-fed cannonade count themselves kings and queens of the horizon, for they serve no master but themselves, and many achieve wealth and glory beyond any noble-born lord.

But the world was not always thus. Where now these scattered savage specks of soil float, where steel and powder write conquest in oceans of blood, there once stood a great land mass and home to an elder empire.

The world was not called Toil then, for it was a place of dreams and legends. The world men bleed and die in today was born of an ancient cataclysm called the Breaking. Scarred obsidian tablets older than the oldest names of men and tribal chants first given voice in the shadow of gods evoke an origin myth of Toil steeped in calamity. These legends weave a dream-like vision of a once great and sprawling continent, where today's many seas now reign supreme, inhabited by an august civilization untouched by privation, evil, or misery.

However, when an old grudge roused a cabal of titanic gods to clash for the last time, their erstwhile battle cast down an errant star which exploded the heart of the continent, shattered it, and cast its shards like fallen leaves far and wide upon the vast sea. Today, the many thousand islands, archipelagos, and the occasional meager continent are the only broken remnants of this once storied epoch. Few scant ruins survive to even hint at ths ancient empire's smothered glory.

Sages and storytellers call this Star-strike, The Fall, and sometimes, the Breaking—a sudden and dismal end to the Age of Legend and the onset of the Age of Dust—in which, their gods slain, humanity plunged into chaos and madness for unmarked millennia, and even those larger fractured stretches of land, far from the Breaking, were cast into hundreds of years of winter, choking dust, and darkness.

Finally the wounded world shook the Age of Dust from it like the breaking of a great fever, and humanity crept back to the light from the deep caves and sequestered wildernesses of their long exile. Their world shattered, the seas had rushed in, drowning most of the land. Through artifice, men and women tamed iron and wood to master this new blue horizon and ply the seas, bringing about the current Age of Toil, in which strong hands, sure feet, burly backs, sharp eyes, and a canny sense of the ever-shifting seas are a man's only defense against oblivion, or worse…ignominy.

At the outset of the Age of Toil, two great powers rose to prominence, and their deadly conflict once again spelled doom for the world.