Karameikos and Beyond
This is the land’s history as known to the peoples of Karameikos.
The first part of the history is recorded in an epic work of poetry of the traldar (Traladara) people, “The Song of King Halav.” This is an ancient work maintained by generations of bards before finally being committed to writing about six centuries ago.
The Song of King Halav
In ancient times, the land now called karameikos was the forest homeland of the Traldar, men and women so favored by the Immortals and allowed to live in these beautiful lands.
The Immortals let the Traldar live happy, simple lives. The Traldar fished and hunted; the men spent most of their time sporting with one another and offering praise to the Immortals.
But the Immortals knew that the happiness of the Traldar was to end. Far to the west, a race of evil beast-men was preparing to march through the easterly lands in search of booty, prisoners and more hospitable homelands.
These beast-men had their own Immortal sponsors equal in might to the patrons of the Traldar, so only victory between man and beast-man would determine the fate of the two races.
The immortals descended to Lavv, a Traldar village, to find clever youths and give them secrets they could use to defeat the beast-men.
They visited Halav Red-Hair, a maker of stone knives, and taught him to forge weapons and armor of bronze. They also taught him the arts of the sword and the strategy of warfare.
They visited Petra, a maker of pottery, and taught her the art of bow, the craft of medicine, and use of the potter’s wheel, the spinning of flax and use of the loom.
They visited Zirchev, a huntsman, and taught him how to tame and ride and fight from horses, how to train dogs to fight for their masters, how to walk silent as the cat, swim as the fish, see as the hawk.
Halav, Petra and Zirchev told the people of Lavv of what the beast-men intended. The king laughed and tried to drive the trio from Lavv. Halav, using the bronze sword given him by the Immortals, slew the king and assumed his crown.
In the years that followed, King Halav, Queen Petra and the Huntsman Zirchev taught their secrets to the people of Lavv and brought all the other villages of Traldar lands under their sway. Villages grew into mighty cities, and Halav was renowned for his fairness and wisdom.
Eventually, the beast-men attacked in numberless waves from the west. The Traldar in their glittering bronze armor stood against them. The irresistible force of the beast-men crashed into the unmovable object of the Traldar, and the war went on forever. Both sides lost great numbers of warriors; each Traldar fighter slew dozens of his bestial enemies before being slain.
Finally, King Halav managed to find the king of the best-men alone on a hilltop. The beast-king was twice the height of a man, with the head of a wolf and a hairy body that was foul beyond compare. It brought its great axe against the sword given Halav by the Immortals.
This was the final battle of man and beast-man. It raged on from dawn until noon, both kinds growing so tired that each could barely wield his weapon. In the “Song of King Halav,” both take a time to rest during the fight and each describes his resoluteness and unconquerable fighting ability.
Evidently both were right: King Halav and the King of the Beast-Men perished upon one another’s weapons. Their armies looked upon one another, the beast-men now fearful because their king had perished, and the Traldar resolutely raising their weapons and barring the beast-men from advancing.
The beast-men departed Traldar lands. Queen Petra and Zirchev took up Halav’s body and returned home. Great was the lamentation in Lavv when they arrived, but, during the ritual burning of Halav’s body that night, the Immportals visited, spiriting Halav, Petra and Zirchev away.
The Traldar mourned their king but turned their eye toward rebuilding their lands into a mighty empire.
The Dark Age
The time of King Halav has since been called the Golden Age of the Traldar, and (as all citizens of Karameikos know) the Traldar never did found a mighty empire or even fully recover from the devastation brought by the beast-men.
Why? Well, according to Traldar legends which have sprung up since this Golden Age, the land needs to have its king returned to it – King Halav must return to Traldar lands before this can become a mighty nation again.
Regardless, following the destruction of the Golden-Age, the peoples of this land descended into a dark age from which they didn’t fully emerge until the last century.
Individual villages survived, and the tribes-men eventually lived at greater than subsistence level. Trade soon commenced with Minrothad and Thyatis peoples. The descendants of the Traldar, called Traladara, began inching their way toward economic recovery. But the Traladara still faced many problems.
In the centuries after the Golden Age, many evil things settled in the Traldaran forests and mountains. Some evil force cursed the land with vampires, lycanthropes, and other beasts. Today, every Traladara village has its legends of a neighboring ruin once occupied by a vampire-lord, or some village lad turning out to be a were-wolf and layer of villagers. Often, the legends are true, and every good Traladara youth knows that the land has its vampires and were-being still.
Because there were horrid things in the woods, travel between inland villages was unsafe. So, while the coastline villages prospered from the foreign trade, while only the bravest of traders would risk expeditions into the Traladar interior. As a result, the inland villagers tended to remain isolated and more ignorant than their seaside cousins.
During this dark age, clans of goblins, hobgoblins, and orcs also settled in Traladara lands – usually some distance from the human communities. They warred upon one another, and upon the humans, and in general made the land less congenial for everyone. More peaceable tribes of elvish and gnomish settlers also came to Traladara, though. The elves settled in the central forests of the land, while the gnomes settled in the mountain foothills northward. Both races traded peaceably with the humans and fought beside them against the less friendly demihuman tribes.
Traladara, a century ago, was a well-known trading spot, particularly Marilenev, its chief city, build where the Volaga river enters the sea. There, Traladarans traded valuable furs for weapons, wines and other spirits, a profitable enterprise.
Most of the Traladaran profits stayed on the coast and the lands immediately inland. Few traders ventured inland; those that did included the annual Gnome Caravan, a well-armed force of gnomes who descended from the northern hills, traded a year’s accumulation of craft goods in Marilenev, and made their way back to gnomish lands.
At about this time, the nations of Darokin and Thyatis began to view Traladara with increasing concern. The forest nation had never offered them any threat, so they had never erected any significant defenses against Traladara. But what if its people should be united under a powerful leader – or, worse yet, conquered by an enemy foreign power?
The Empire of Thyatis decided the matter by sending troops to the Traladaran capital, Marilenev, and conquering it, claming all Traladara for Thyatis. Darokin shrugged and began steps to make sure its border was secure.
Thyatis took few real steps to secure Traladara for itself. It installed a garrison of soldiers in Marilenev. The military commander at the time renamed Marilenev “Specularum” (The Mirror City) after the reflective beauty of Marilenev’s bay. A tax collector took in revenues on all trade money which changed hands in the city.
Other than that, the rest of Traladara was left pretty much to itself. The more isolated communities were completely unaffected by the “conquest.” The traders suffered a Thyatian tax, but the greater Thyatian interest in Traladara meant that trade boomed and they profited more anyway.
That’s how conditions remained until thirty years ago. At that time, Duke Stefan Karameikos III, a youthful nobleman of Thyatis, struck a deal with the Emperor of Thyatis. Karameikos, in essence, traded his valuable ancestral lands for Traladara – and a guarantee of autonomy. The Empire recognized Karameikos’ claim to Traladara, now renamed the Grand Duchy of Karameikos, and recalled its officials from Traladara territory.
Duke Stefan traveled to his duchy, announced his assumption of rulership over Traladara, and put down the armed insurrection which resulted. After things had settled down somewhat, he began luring ambitious, landless nobles from Thyatis to help him rule this land in proper Thyatian fashion.
The early years of Duke Stefan’s rule where characterized by both good and bad results.
On the bad side, many of the Tyatian settlers who poured into the country, swearing loyalty to Duke Stefan and receiving land grants, were ruthless men who literally stole lands from the Traladarans living upon them. Worst among them was Duke Stefan’s own cousin, Baron Ludwig “Black Eagle” von Hendriks.
On the good side, Duke Stefan himself was a exemplary leader, demanding fairness and honor in the men he directly supervised. He began using the trade tax revenues to build broad, good roads across the country, uniting the far-flung villages into a single nation. he built a substantial army, using native Traldarans, Thyatian immigrants, and even Callarii elves, to protect the Grand Duchy. In short, he began the long, slow process of building Traladara, a land of unfriendly villages and wolf-howls in the night, into a strong trade nation.
Today, the Grand Duchy is still growing into that nation – it is still young, with its two halves of the population (Traladaran and Thyatian) largely unmixed and its interior mostly uncivilized. But it is growing stronger day by day, and most of the nations of the continent have representatives in Karameikos, a sign of the nation’s growing international importance.