The Kingdom of Khaerum

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The Kingdom of Khaerum

Post  Berserker on Sun Feb 15, 2015 12:42 am

A work-in-progress describing the land of Khaerum, its history, politics, geography, culture, and a dozen other things when it's finished. For now, it only covers history, but it covers much more ancient history than what's been described elsewhere.


HISTORY


Elves and Humans


Countless generations ago, human ancestors in the Adrilan basin shared their lands with another, more lithe, race. Pale of skin and with longer ears, this people was known as the elves. They walked the night as the humans walk the day, cloaking themselves in darkness. For a long while, and long before either of the races considered counting how many years passed, the two races lived well together with little conflict.

Approximately 4000 years ago, however, the two races began fighting. The basin’s animal life had been struck hard by both races hunting them, and there wasn’t enough food for both man and elf. The fighting started at a simple scale; hunting parties attacking each other, cattle theft, and raids on granaries. It quickly escalated. The humans started building fortifications around their villages, to keep the elves away, and the elves began digging under these in order to steal food at night. Then the humans began keeping nightly watches over their granaries, and the elves started assassinating the watchmen to get to the food. At that point the humans had enough, and began outfitting larger forces to drive the elves out of the basin.  During a series of short, but brutal battles, the humans managed to drive the elves out of the basin and into the mountains to the west. The elves, not nearly hardy enough to survive winter in the mountains, were forced to trek across the mountains and into the forested lands further west.

While the humans developed their society and began farming, mining and building in the Adrilan basin, the elves developed a different style of living in the forests of what is today the Ivellean heartland. While they, too, started mining, farming was never their style, and their building was mostly done with wood, artfully blending in with the trees. The elven society changed somewhat during this period, to fit better with their new home and the land they had all to themselves, and they slowly repopulated after the war with the humans.

During the next 1000 years, the elves grew aware of a new form of energy in the world. The more they were exposed to this form of energy, the more they felt they could manipulate it. Though the elves did not know, they were among the first creatures to grow aware of magic, and this discovery would be one that influenced their lives more than anything else.

About 2800 years ago, the elves had completed a plan to retake their lost homelands and destroy the humans who lived there. The elves had grown to become highly skilled at manipulating magic, and with this new tool at their disposal, they felt confident they could defeat the humans. A broad spy network had already been put into place in the basin, keeping track on the humans and reporting their activities, and they had not learnt to wield magic yet. Therefore, the elves came across the Dimberg mountains in great numbers, planning to assault and overrun the western part of the basin before the humans had a chance to react.

The elven spies, however, had failed to realise the culture that had formed in the basin. The humans had, out of a lack of other enemies, fought among themselves, and paradoxically enough in elven eyes, grown much stronger. The elite human fighters, calling themselves knights, valued such things as honour and skill in battle, and equipped with plated armour and broad, shining swords, they quickly proved to be the elves’ worst foe.

As the first battles played out, the elves found that their carefully planned strategies worked very well, but that their magics had far less of an effect on the humans than they had assumed. The humans were well equipped, however, and oftentimes the elves, prepared to massacre the humans, would only achieve minor victories as the humans managed to prevent the worst losses. Furthermore, the survivors brought the elves’ strategies to the human generals’ attention, and soon the humans retaliated with tactics of their own. Elven flanking parties were destroyed by lone bands of human riders, and the elves’ main forces suffered greater losses than anticipated. The elf leaders quickly realised they were losing another war, and disagreements broke out. Some said they had to retreat and minimise their losses, while others refused, saying they would slay the humans if it was the last thing they did. At the moment, vengeance still held a stronger place in the elves’ hearts than reason, and the forces held on a while longer.

Eventually, however, the inevitable came to be; the elves were pushed back to the slopes of the Dimberg mountains, assailed by human armies. The night before the battle, several of the elven commanders said they refused to let the humans slaughter them to the last. The other commanders branded them traitors and sent word to the elven king to banish the traitors to the last man, so great was their desire for vengeance against the humans. When they left regardless, however, and taking their men with them, the other elves despaired, for with half their force gone, they had no hope of survival against the humans.

Hope came in the form of a new and unexpected ally. An elven seer, while in his meditative trance, saw a vision clearer than any other he had seen. In it, mighty armoured warriors stood at the forefront of the elven lines, wielding weapons larger than any he had formerly seen, and smiting down several humans at a time. When he left his trance, he knew what it would take to summon these mighty warriors, and using rituals unknown to any other elf, he opened a portal to another realm. As the first warrior strode through the portal, the seer looked upon the warrior and saw his own thirst for vengeance given form, and knew that the tide had turned in favour of the elves once again.

Many of the remaining elves did what they could to summon these warriors, and throughout the night, several of these so-called demons strode through portals from beyond. Similarly, several of the weaker-willed elves were dragged backwards through the portals, but when sunrise came, the elven ranks had been significantly bolstered, and several demons now glanced down at the humans below.

The ensuing battle was excessively brutal. Both sides suffered tremendous losses; the elves were badly outnumbered and poorly equipped compared to the humans, while the demons’ might was too much for the humans to cope with. But as elf after elf was slaughtered, and the humans managed to surround the demons, even they were dragged down, dishonourable as it was. Of the entire army, only one human managed to defeat a demon in single combat. As the elven commanders saw that their army was being slaughtered, despite the demons, they lost heart and hope alike. When those humans who got past the demons and the blood of a thousand slain elves reached their command tent, they found them simply waiting for death to claim them. Without hesitation, the humans slew the commanders, and with that, the elves’ invasion of the Adrilan basin was over.

After the battle, while the humans licked their wounds and gathered their dead, the elves who turned their back on their comrades turned south, preferring self-imposed exile over being executed for treason. They followed the mountain range, all the way south, where it forked out west and southeast.  Between those forks, in that cold, dark land, the exiled elves settled, founding the land called Khaerum.


The land of Khaerum

Khaerum was first settled in the autumn of the year -977. Its people, elves exiled for treason after the first stage of the elf-human war, were at first a constantly depressed and apathetic people, both from the loss of both their homelands and being exiled by their own kin. During the first two hundred years, however, a slow change came upon the elves, long lived as they were. Their shame and disheartedness was replaced by a determination to make a living for themselves and the young elves born in that cold land. The winters took their toll upon them, proving deadly cold, and as the sun was always blocked from shining upon their lands, it took a very long time for spring to drive it away. Therefore, the elves of Khaerum took to building far stronger buildings than their northern kin. Large castles of stone were built, as stone was the best building material available in the lands, and strong doors were made, so that sections of the castle could be closed off in winter, while the most needed parts were kept warm using wood. The poor ground in Khaerum proved difficult to build on, as well, as frozen ground that seemed sturdy in winter turned out to be nothing but a large bog during the short summers, and more than one castle sank into the swamp in this manner. The elves persisted, however, and over time, several large castles and towers were erected in and around Khaerum.

Farming proved near impossible in Khaerum. Between the ground being frozen more than half the year, much of the ground being swamp during the time of year it was possible to farm, and the sun being blocked out by the mountains, growing crops of any kind turned out impossible. Hunting became ever more important to the Khaerites, and during summer, many hunting expeditions ventured northeast into the wilderness where the savages known as the Bear Tribes made their home, bringing cartloads of meat home for the winter. Khaerum’s southern coast turned out to be another convenient source of food, as fishing became another source of food.

Despite the hardships of the land, the Khaerite elves prospered, and once survival ceased to be a constant worry, they could turn their hands to other projects. Khaerum developed an architecture of its own, proving quite fitting to the gloomy, often icy land, and in the many marshlands of the land, bog iron was in no short supply.

For a couple of thousand years, Khaerum isolated itself from the rest of the world, its inhabitants content with what they had. In the year 1504, however, Khaerum became the first victim of the fifty-four years long winter. Even its inhabitants, long used to the cold by now, struggled with surviving, and both fishing and hunting became difficult. Food shortage became an emergency in what would normally be the spring of the year 1505, and the elven king ordered his best mages and alchemists to find a way to avoid all of Khaerum starving to death, among them Count Baalnaris II. Baalnaris II formed a council with the purpose of pooling all knowledge and research made, and during the year, they conducted extensive research on everything from artificially heating the country to magically creating food. Their research only turned out to demand too much magical energy to keep the country stable, however. It was not until Baalnaris II heard about a case of cannibalism in the country’s northern reaches that he found a solution. He created an artificial disease that causes the victim to crave blood, but its side effect enables the victim to sustain himself on blood and blood alone. Knowing fully well this will lead to people getting killed for their blood alone, he tried to convince the king this was the only way to save Khaerum, and that some survivors are better than no survivors. The king, however, could not stomach the harshness of Baalnaris II’s solution. The issue was only resolved when Baalnaris II, inflicted with his own disease and with several others supporting him, overthrew the king and took his place. He ordered the disease spread among the people, and formed the Council of the Crimson Circle as a formalised extension of his research council. He then dubbed the disease vampirism.

With vampirism preserving the people of Khaerum, those with too strong morals to refuse to drink the blood of their kin became fodder themselves. This made the survivors after the fifty-four years long winter an amoral and generally speaking pretty cold race. Those who are born of a mother inflicted with vampirism suffer from a chronic version of the disease, but only those who feed extensively on blood from a young age prove incapable of controlling their bloodlust. The first generation after the fifty-four year winter had a higher than average amount of these blood-crazed vampires, but the next generation proved less bloodthirsty, much to the relief of most common folk in Khaerum.


After vampirism became widespread in Khaerum, and after the seven-year winter ending in 1750, Khaerum decided to open their country to the Ivelleans, seeing as the Ivelleans, despite being humans in all ways but one, share ancestry with the Khaerites. That does not make the Khaerum-Ivellea relationship a particularly friendly one, but trade agreements were made, and as humans had been dragged to Khaerum in the past, the Khaerites agreed to only enslave Adrilans. The trade road north to Ivellea was opened in 1782, and has stayed open ever since.
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