There are long-distant days that even the elephants cannot remember.
And in those days, the world of Okarthel belonged to the beasts.
And the greatest of those beasts were the mighty dragons, masters of claw and wing and breath.
And the greatest of these dragons were called the Urathear, who were like unto the gods.
Every lesser beast that walked, or swam, or flew, or crawled, upon the face of Okarthel gave reverence to the dragons as the kings of the beasts.
But then one day, after much deliberation, the gods decided to call the races of Man into the world, and to give them the gifts of speech and reason, much as the dragons possessed.
And there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth among the Urathear and their dragons.
The Urathear had foreseen the end of their kind’s mastery at the hands of Man, unless the humble powers of Man were checked.
And so the Urathear and their dragons feuded with the gods, and the feuds shook the very pillars of Okarthel.
After a time, some of the gods came to see the justice of the dragons’ complaint, and suggested a gift be offered to them, to return peace to the world.
And so the gods reached down to the beasts who walked, and swam, and flew, and crawled, across the face of Okarthel, and raised up one from among each species to be the new king of its kind. These beast kings were, like Man and Dragon, given the gifts of speech and reason. And like Man and Dragon, too, the beast kings held within them the power of magic, if they chose to pursue it.
The gods hoped this gift would soothe the Urathear, by giving them more subjects of their own to venerate and revere them.
But the gods had committed a folly, for in giving the beast kings speech and reason and magic, they had also given them choice. And some chose not to revere the Urathear.
Enraged, the Urathear threatened the beast kings, demanding from them the unconditional loyalty the dragons enjoyed from lesser beasts. They showed the beast kings visions of the future of Man, and how Man would drive out dragons and spoil the world of Okarthel.
Many of the beast kings listened, and agreed. These chose to challenge Man.
But other beast kings did not trust the dragons. They knew that Man, like them, had the power of choice. These beast kings believed Man could be redeemed. And so these beast kings befriended Man.
And still other beast kings had no love for Man, but saw great benefit to living alongside him. These beast kings chose neither to befriend nor to challenge, but merely to shadow Man.
The Urathear, for all their rage and power, knew they could not prevail against Man unless all the beast kings stood with them. And so they chose to leave the world of Okarthel, taking their dragons with them.
This left the beast kings to rule their kind as they saw fit. Soon the beast kings learned that they could pass their gifts of speech and reason and magic on to some of their children, and thus the first noble animals were born.
Over time, the noble animals learned that life with Man was tricky and dangerous. Man was often fearful and violent towards that he did not understand, and so the beast kings and noble animals decided that it would be best to hide their true nature from Man.
This is why animal magic cannot be perceived by any but the most perceptive of Man. And it is why the tongues of animals cannot be understood by Man.
And it is why each new generation of noble animal is confronted by the original question put to them by the Urathear and their dragons: will you befriend the races of Man, or will you challenge them?