This is going to be a long one, so grab a drink and make yourself comfortable. I’m afraid that the TL;DR version of the information below would not be that helpful in understanding the origin of some of the Nine Empires. See, the events over several centuries are quite interconnected. So, if you don’t like reading fictional history, turn back now, because reading only part of this will raise more questions that it answers.
One of the first empires on Rossbera was Minkut (Min-kut, as there is no mink in the country). It included all of the modern-day Karadenian Empire, and also stretched as far north as the Vastochniszbrje (from the Slavic word for “east” and the Skharan word for “desert”), a cold desert in what is now eastern Drachania. Minkut also stretched very far in-land, as the Kraichis Desert (the larger of the two hot deserts on Rossbera) was not quite as large during the Rossberan Bronze Age. The capital of Minkut was the fabled mountain-city of Sing-Yat-San, so-dubbed because the entire city covered a lone mountain at the edge of the desert (at the time, the ruins of the city are currently well inside the desert). The mountain springs continued to provide ample water even when the desert grew during the Iron Age. The wealth of Sing-Yat-San, in the form of gold, silks, dyes, and spices, flowed throughout the Minkutian lands and beyond, south to the Koltoskis Empire (which eventually became part of Arcadia), and farther south still to the city-states of Arcadis, Pharos, and Maledirna, and all the way to Talgea on the west coast. The northernmost regions of Minkut were sparse border colonies in a wild land, and relied mostly on trade. The colonists could get food on their own, but the land yielded nothing of value, especially once the colonists reached the Vastochniszbrje. That cold desert would be the undoing of the entire Minkutian Empire, though not directly.
The colonists travelled around the desert, through the huge, old-growth forest on the west side, and along the coast on the east side. In both cases, at the borders of Karmisha, the mountain kingdom in the forest, and in the many coastal towns, the natives warned the Minkutians not to go any farther north, for a dark terror dwelled in those lands and preyed upon anyone who had anything of value. The civilised Minkutians believed that such barbaric primitves would pose no threat to them. Little did they know that the “terror” to the north was quite advanced, and in fact saw the Minkutian colonists as primitive.
Around the same time that the Minkutian Empire first came to be, a loose conglomerate of northern tribes called Durkuz flourished under the guidance of the chuyinka. In such ancient times, the chuyinka were worshipped as gods, but the situation in Durkuz was unique. Since chuyinka tend to be the most active (and most aggressive) in colder climates, the religious leaders of Durkuz went to great lengths to assure that they would be met in peace when they most needed guidance. This meant providing an adequate sacrifice prior to approaching the sanctum of Derekaz. Thus, sinners were stripped of their clothes and marked with the symbol of their tribe on their chest, and the glyph of their sin on their back, both in the blood of a goat. Sinners were then marched into the depths of the Blackwood, in numbers no less than the number of chuyinka voices the priests happened to hear that week. The numbers were to assure that no chuyinka would go hungry, otherwise the priests themselves would end up being eaten. Horrid though this may seem, it kept the peace for several centuries. Unfortunately, Clan Ferestek ruined this all by implementing their own system of laws, growing powerful, and eventually taking over all of Durkuz. The cooling climate shortened the growing season, and food became scarce quite quickly, leading to the clan wars. After Ferestek’s victory in the clan wars, they decided to attack Derekaz itself. This attack ended in disaster, with the chuyinka tearing apart their forces. The remainder of Ferestek’s army retreated to Motte Holgar, where they thought they were safe, only to be surprised by an army under Clan Skharnov. The Skharnovs burned the wooden walls to the ground, and stormed the island in boats. Though the ensuing battle cost both sides their armies, it kept Clan Ferestek busy long enough for the chuyinka to swoop in and finish them off. Thus ended the days of Durkuz.
Upon the destruction of Clan Ferestek, Clan Skharnov was rewarded with Motte Holgar, and under the direction of the chuyinka, a great star-fort of reinforced concrete was built over the ruins of the old motte-and-bailey. The chuyinka decided that a strict hierarchy needed to be implemented, otherwise upstart clans such as Ferestek would rise again and disturb the peace. Therefore, it was agreed that only druorns (which the Skharnovs were, but the Feresteks were not) would be allowed to own land, reside permanently in fortified dwellings, and collect “any amount of trading token greater than what is required to obtain basic necessities.” “Trading token,” was the closest phrase in Kiralessan to the word “money,” which the chuyinka do not believe in. With many clans, druorn and otherwise, scattered to the wind, the lands once of Durkuz basically consisted of large expanses punctuated by isolated clusters of houses inside wooden holdfasts. Under the orders of House Skharnov, holdfasts of druorns were to be built up into concrete star-forts, of similar design to Castle Holgar. Naturally, with the Skharnovs travelling far and wide, helping out fellow druorns while beating other races into the dirt, wars began to rage again. Since all the armies had been wiped out during Ferestek’s insurrection, the scale of these wars was quite small, but the time was greatly increased. For the next two centuries, the Skharnovs played cat-and-mouse with their enemies, who would lead them on, go into hiding, then come out again to raid loyalist villages and tear down their incomplete fortifications. Much of old Durkuz was lost, as the druorns occupied a fairly small area. When the Skharnovs finally ended their campaign, the new nation became known as Skhara.
Skhara was an advanced society, in some ways more so than Minkut by the time the two encountered each other. For one, the Skharans had concrete, though that was never relevent in the case of the Minkutians, who never had a chance to attack any Skharan castles. The people of Karmisha knew of Skhara, though the Skharans never raided in the area, much less did they attack any Karmishan border forts. Not far from Karmisha’s border was a conglomeration of iron mines and mining towns, all under Skhara’s control. The Rhûnnish Empire eventually took over the area, and named it Zhelezograd (“Iron City”). On the coast, not far from Kharnopol, the northernmost Minkutian colony, was Renissa, the southernmost Skharan city. With the Minkutian colonists having not heeded the warnings of the locals, it was only a matter of time before the Skharans learned of a wealthy land to the south of their own, ripe for the taking.
The people of Minkut were totally unprepared for an attack from the north, by land and sea. The northern area of Minkut fell quickly, and the surviving Minkutians were forced to both build and pull oars on galleys. Huge numbers of slave galleys smashed against Minkutian warships in the bay to the south, clearing the way for Skharan warships to deliver troops completely unopposed. Troops in central Minkut were not accustomed to fighting actual armies, and were scattered to the wind by a much smaller Skharan force. Central Minkut was quickly overrun, and the Skharan forces yet again used slave galleys to cross the bay to southern Minkut. When the Skharans themselves landed, the Minkutians pulled back from the western border, leaving it to bandits, while they all retreated to their last main fortress. Southern troops were accustomed to protracted sieges, and eventually defeated the Skharan forces at the fortified city that would later become known as Hero’s Hall. However, the devastation was so widespread that Minkut never recovered. Skhara had suffered a heavy blow, but kept dominion over the north for the time being. Having lost half their soldiers, the Skharan nobles had to contend with quite a few uprisings, but their actual downfall would take another two centuries.
Part of what drew Skhara to attack Minkut was the promise of riches within the fabled city of Sing-Yat-San. Sadly, the economic loss to Skhara was devastating, and in spite of the massive amounts of gold that they plundered from the city, the losses they suffered seizing it simply could not be repaid with any amount of money. To make matters worse, this was before Skharan forces had even crossed the second bay to attack southern Minkut. When it was all said and done, there were not enough ships to carry all the plunder back to Skhara, much less men to crew the ships. Not wanting to simply leave it for someone else to take, many ships were deliberately overloaded and sent to drift out into the open ocean. Once far enough from land, the raging storms would claim the ships, and the treasure would never be seen again. Meanwhile, the Skharan forces returned home with an empty victory. If anything was to be gained, it was that word would spread far and wide that the great kingdom of Minkut fell to this savage force from a land that, aside from the Minkutians themselves, southerners believed to be beyond the world’s end.
The destruction of Minkut inspired King Druck of Marbregg to build a great wall to close off the only mountain pass in his kingdom. Since the pass was at a fairly high altitude, he and most of his subjects assumed that all land north of the pass was shrouded in a never-ending winter. Even in modern times, this can be forgiven, since there is a vast plateau that stretches all the way to the horizon, even from the top of Druck’s Wall. The Skharans never once reached the wall during Druck’s lifetime, and since his subjects, noble and common alike, were tired of his fear-mongering, they decided to dismantle the wall and use the construction materials for other things. Once an opening appeared at ground level, however, a small northern tribe approached the wall, begging for asylum south. Word had spread like wildfire of the Skharan raids westward from their own territory, particularly because of a new battle-cry they had adopted (“who owns the north”). Marbregg took in many refugees, but only on the condition that they help re-build the wall and defend it against Skhara. It was not until the reign of Druck’s great-grandson that the Skharans finally did attack the wall, which they did only because the chuyinka told them to. Reya Bloodwing, who would eventually become the mother of Veya Blackwing, saw the destruction of the wall, and of Marbregg, as necessary to keep the northern and southern halves of Rossbera divided. Future generations would see the ruins of the wall, hear tales of the savages who came from the north and brought death, only to vanish back into the north. Reya knew that nothing else would seal the fear of the north in the southerners, and told the Skharnovs such. Skharan forces attacked Druck’s Wall, tore down the weak centre, then stormed the towers on either side, allowing the main force to pour through the pass and lay waste to Marbregg.
The ruins of Druck’s Wall survived the centuries, and eventually became the foundations for a wall that Taressim built on its northern border to defend against Drachania. However, the propaganda artists changed the story, fabricating a war hero named General Druck who fought off the Drachanians while building this wall from scratch, never mind that no-one named Druck had been alive for centuries by the time that Drachania even existed.
As time passed since the destruction of Minkut, the Skharnovs became much more distant from the chuyinka, preferring to avoid Derekaz as much as possible. Though the chuyinka reached out from time to time, they could see that Skhara was regressing, falling back on raiding and abandoning nearly all other methods of supporting the economy. Even bartering was abandoned, as markets became the sites of frequent brawls that would escalate into blood feuds over things as mundane as the price of fruit. When a druorn of House Barinyev killed a lavkin serf owned by House Permetan for no apparent reason other than amusement, it nearly resulted in civil war. The only thing that kept the peace was the Skharnovs’ intervention – by lobbing casks filled with dark fire over the walls of the Barinyev and Permetan castles, incinerating everyone within. And so, two noble houses of Skhara died because somebody had to try out his sword on a peasant. Within the ruins of the two castles, a rebellion began to brew. Small bands of votrels gathered what wayward lavkins they could, and began training a small army in the art of siege, for the purpose of overthrowing the druorns. It took another two generations before the plan was finally executed, one by one, the castles were destroyed, with Holgar being saved for last. Shortly after the downfall of House Skharnov, a great plague spread from within the fortress, purging the Blackwood of all civilised life (and all animal life, for a time), as well as severely affecting the other regions of Skhara. The coastal lords that took control after the fall of Holgar did not last long before the plague consumed them as well. In the end, Skhara disappeared, the coastal cities became largely democratic and formed a league known as Kantossa, and Alexandra Skharnova, the only remaining member of House Skharnov, fled so far west that no-one could possibly know her name, much less the wickedness attached to it.
While Alexandra Skharnova was busy sacking tsardoms in the northwest and building her own empire, people from all over the south began migrating into the Minkutian lands. The regions with the predominantly Minkutian population formed the Karadenian Empire, under the rule of an exiled Arcadian prince, Luminius Kaesus, known as Luminius the Bright, or simply, “The Bright Light of Karaden.” Though Rossberan historians typically paint Alexandra as a brutal conqueror and Luminius as a peaceful nation-builder, the two were actually a bit of both, each bringing the philosophy of an advanced yet lost society to a group of comparitively primitive people. Sometimes the people accepted it, and sometimes they resisted. Whatever the case, both Alexandra and Luminius achieved similar results.
Since I’ve already written a lot about Rhûn, I’ll save the story of Alexandra’s Conquest for another day. For now, let’s skip ahead 400 cycles to the War of Karadenian Succession. In my post about the continent of Rossbera itself, I mention that, were it not for this war, the Sondorian Empire would not even exist. This is because, at the time, wars were like horse races. Noble families would effectively bet on the outcome of the wars by pouring resources into supporting one side or another, while not officially allying themselves with one cause or another (this kept the nations themselves neutral in the conflict, and allowed two noble families from the same country to bet on opposing factions). Some families lost everything, and some gained enormous wealth from the practise. When the War of Karadenian Succession began, all bets were on the houses of Argeas and Rontus, yet there was a third contender. Against all odds, House Milaius ended up winning the war, which benefitted no-one.
The outcome of the war was yet more consolidation of power. A number of Arcadian houses went bankrupt. The Pristen Dynasty had failed to keep things together, and sold a huge amount of territory to Karaden in order to cut some of their vassals’ losses. However, the various steward families in the capital region saw the issue as poorly handled, and exiled the Imperial Family. They then “drew straws” to see who would get to rule next, and that ultimately fell to House Rodilos. However, after a three-year investigation into the activities of a number of other noble families, so many of them were sent into exile that Rodilos ended up with only one steward house, Draes. During all of this, the Republic of Breace broke away, and enlisted the help of the Kantossi merchant fleet to build up defenses and keep the meagre Arcadian forces from taking back the territory.
Meanwhile in the west, many kingdoms in the marshlands went bankrupt. Each of the Sondorian Isles; from south to north, Nala, Qells, Toruck and Baigal; was an independent kingdom, at least until the Rhûnnish Empire took Baigal. The marsh kingdoms were also independent, but when the war was finished, their economies all collapsed. Only Qells was still in decent shape, and quickly annexed the other isles. The isles joined without resistance, but the mainland militias fought fiercely. With the royal families having all gone bankrupt in the marshes, there was no organised military to keep the Sondorian Empire at bay (literally). The only thing slowing down the imperial invaders was the land itself. Mainland Sondor is a nice place, if you’re a duck. In never stops raining and there is very little solid ground. Even less of that ground can be built on. When the marsh kingdoms had gone to war with each other, they did so entirely with boats. Some of these boats were the size of warships used on the open water. Imperial forces used the same tactic to push farther inland and carve out the territory that Sondor has today. Around the same time that the conquest of the mainland was finished, the War of Rhûnnish Succession began. Sondor took this opportunity to seize the southern half of Baigal, which the Rhûnnish Empire had largely abandoned by this point. The idea was to create a buffer zone if Rhûn ever decided to invade Sondor. Of course, this never happened.
So, there you have it, the origins of three more of the Nine Empires. I’m done with writing about lore for now. My next post will most likely be about the warships that these empires use.