Spoilers - world Info
Cascadonian Conquests and Hakna Hadra
Ceridwen's words rewritten in the style of George R. R. Martin, courtesy of Chat GPT.
Three centuries past, the Hestreans watched their world crumble to ashes. The inaugural Cascadon, reluctant to bear the mantle of kingship, for he was more a battle-hardened warrior than a silver-tongued diplomat, embarked on a daring odyssey. With the support of his possible kin, Alain, they forged a novel system of governance in the nascent Cascadon realm. In this innovative arrangement, the king relinquished his duties in matters of state to a queen, who managed domestic affairs, and a warlord, who handled international concerns. The position of warlord was taken by the king himself until a successor was designated.
The arrangement suited the first Cascadon well. He left his castle in the capable hands of his spouse and embarked on a quest to seek a coastal haven. He recognized the necessity of establishing a port for his burgeoning realm, constrained as it was by the valley's limited resources. The path he carved through the Duchy of Havand led to the creation of the Middle Baronies, each settlement a stepping stone toward the fulfillment of his vision.
As they ventured into the reaches of Havand, the Cascadonians encountered willing compatriots among the populace, giving rise to the realms of Canis and Aquila. These territories shared deep affinities with Dunelainian culture, emphasizing the importance of infrastructure and martial prowess. This alliance proved indispensable in safeguarding the border against Dunelain, thanks to the common Mylaran cultural roots that facilitated communication between the Cascadonians and the Dunelainians.
However, their eastward journey took a tumultuous turn when they crossed paths with the enigmatic Hestreans, a culture distinct from Mylaran or Dunelainian origins. The Hestrean language, lifestyle, and values were alien to the Cascadonians, leading to misunderstandings, offenses, and ultimately, conflict.
The war proved to be a daunting challenge for Cascadon. With their forces stretched thin across the Middle Baronies in their struggle against Dunelain, their ability to support the eastern campaign against the Hestreans was compromised. Lacking the strength to swiftly conquer the Hestreans, they faltered. The Hestreans, though less organized, possessed an intimate knowledge of the marshy terrain unfamiliar to the Cascadonians. They controlled vital resources such as freshwater and game, effectively hindering the Cascadonian advance. Moreover, in the midst of their difficulties, the Aperians faced relentless attacks from monsters dwelling in Zubin's Wood, which prompted a desperate plea for aid.
Amid these trials, Veritas, a Vestrean explorer, entered the Cascadonian fold, serving as a crucial second-in-command. Veritas quickly acquired proficiency in the Cascadonian language and assisted in bridging the cultural gap with the Hestreans. As the original discoverers of the Hestreans, the Vestreans possessed invaluable insights, and Veritas eagerly shared his knowledge, harboring hopes of achieving a peaceful resolution to the conflict. However, this stance clashed with the more hawkish elements within the Cascadonian military hierarchy.
When Aper's call for assistance reached the front lines, the high military council recommended sending Veritas to assess the situation, viewing it as a fool's errand while seeking to divert him from advocating for peace. Veritas, fatigued by warfare and a true explorer at heart, embraced the mission.
Upon arriving in Aper and witnessing the dire circumstances caused by the monster infestation, Veritas hurriedly returned to the war front, bearing news of the peril. However, Cascadon's response was curt, with an emphasis on the need for wood to construct siege weapons for the port's capture. Disheartened and frustrated, Veritas resolved to take matters into his own hands.
And so, he did. Veritas vanquished the monsters of Zubin's Wood by tracking down the Umber Hulk responsible for desecrating the water with the remains of mythical creatures like Unicorns. Overcome by grief and anger at the sight of these majestic creatures' corpses, Veritas beseeched the gods for strength. Justina answered his call by bestowing upon him a weapon – the Blade of Veritas. With this newfound power, he confronted and defeated the Umber Hulk, ushering in a period of peace in Zubin's Wood. Aperians resumed their endeavors, fortified their barony, and provided much-needed wood for weapon production in Ferre.
After spending some time rendering aid to the Aperian people, Veritas returned to the war front, where he shared his triumphant tale with Cascadon. However, Cascadon's attention fixated on the Blade of Veritas.
The Cascadon, his eyes gleaming with covetous desire, pointed to the sheathed blade. "Veritas, this is a wondrous artifact, a weapon to rend the Hestreans asunder. It will secure our victory."
Veritas, with a furrowed brow and wisdom beyond the battlefield, retorted, "My lord, there are graver matters at hand. Your realm is stretched too thin, and your subjects bear the weight of this conflict. We should retreat to the Middle Baronies, fortify the kingdom, and seek a path to peace with the Hestreans. The port can be yours without the spilling of blood in torrents and crippling your people."
The Cascadon, his voice thundering with unyielding resolve, scoffed, "Peace? I am no peacemaker. I am a warrior king. I shall possess that port, whatever the cost. And if you will not wield this weapon for me, I shall take it from you."
The chasm between them deepened, and Veritas, aghast, finally spoke, "You are not the Cascadon I love. You are but a specter – a shade of a man colored by greed."
As tensions reached their zenith, The Cascadon, driven to fury, drew his Dragon Claw Dagger, moving to strike Veritas. Yet, in a moment that defied their tumultuous history, Veritas, the gigachad, moved with a grace and strength beyond compare. He barely unsheathed his Blade of Veritas, using only its hilt to thwart the Dragon Claw Dagger's advance. The mighty clash shattered the Cascadon's weapon, the vibration spiraling up his arm and rendering useless. Veritas departed, leaving the broken king to wage a war that would break the kingdom.
Veritas could no longer pretend that Cascadon’s hunger for the port could be sated. Similarly, the Hestreans remained resolute in their determination to reclaim their territory. Frustrated and disillusioned, Veritas embarked on a journey to the Hestrean capital, The Isen, in a last-ditch effort to negotiate with their council.
However, Veritas's travels through Hestrean lands uncovered disconcerting practices within the tribes, practices that conflicted with his progressive principles from a more advanced society. The Hestreans enslaved other tribes and even Cascadonians, with instances of cannibalism staining their culture. These revelations left Veritas deeply disheartened and cast doubt on whether the Hestrean people were deserving of salvation.
Engaging with the Hestrean council at The Isen, Veritas discovered their apathy and ignorance toward these practices. They reveled in opulence while their tribes toiled in the harshest of conditions. Furthermore, the council extracted tribute from the tribes, threatening them with curses, calamity, or blight from the nexus at The Isen's heart if they failed to comply. Yet, they contributed little to governance or the well-being of their people.
Enraged by this injustice, Veritas swore to annihilate the nexus. He infiltrated The Isen, plunging his blade into the heart of the enigmatic source of power. Word of this daring act spread like wildfire across Hestrean lands. As tributes ceased and power-hungry tribal leaders turned on each other, the Hestreans retreated from the war front to their southern territories.
It was a less-than-satisfying victory for Cascadon, but the Port of New Hope was finally in their grasp. Cascadon's arm was forever marked by his conflict with Veritas, and he spent his final years in Castle Cascadon, nurturing his son, Prince Alain, named after his brother. The elder Alain married into the Vulpesian family and ascended to become Baron Alain Vulpes. Yet, ambition gnawed at his heart, and the seeds of conspiracy were sown.
Baron Alain Vulpes, a shrewd plotter, observed as the kingdom took root and sensed a growing dread in his soul. The concentration of power in the hands of the queen and warlord, under the king's nominal reign, left the barons with limited influence. Leveraging his status as the young prince's uncle, Baron Alain Vulpes successfully guided the prince and queen to establish The Baron's Council. Each barony was represented, providing counsel on domestic matters under the queen's purview.
In this political landscape, Baron Alain Vulpes laid the groundwork for a grand vision – a representative government. His manifesto, encoded to safeguard its secrecy, was passed down through generations within the Vulpesian lineage. Though the tradition faded in Ferre after the enigmatic death of the young man who married Alain's daughter, it persisted among the Vulpesian barons.
As years stretched into decades, the conspiracy expanded its scope and refined its tactics. During King Alain's rule, the kingdom faced the challenge of securing an heir. Baron Alain orchestrated a marriage between King Alain's brother, Vespero, and a Vulpesian noble, ensuring the birth of Prince Speron. The circumstances of Prince Speron's parentage provided Baron Alain with a potent tool for blackmail, strengthening the influence of The Baron's Council.
On his deathbed, Baron Alain Vulpes set in motion one final scheme, a seemingly inconspicuous yet potentially far-reaching idea that could ultimately bring Cascadon to its knees or dismantle the monarchy itself. He penned a letter to the Children of Havand, a rebellious faction entrenched in the Black Grove, outlining a plan to infiltrate the Dunelainian nobility. Success in this endeavor would allow them to seize the Southern Duchies without resorting to war. Yet, they required assistance to deal with the ever-growing might of the Cascadonians. The answer lay in Hestrean support.
Over generations, the Children of Havand undertook a patient and clandestine mission to infiltrate the Hestrean tribes. They propagated the prophecy of Hakna Hadra, the Firestorm that would Burn the World, laying the groundwork for their audacious plans. As their influence deepened within the Southern Duchies, they dispatched four exceptional warriors, imbued with magic from the Black Grove's nexus, to journey south to Hestrean territory. These heralds of Hakna Hadra united the most fervent and ruthless Hestrean tribes, forming the Fire Ice Tribe. They harnessed formidable powers, enchantments, and control spells, rallying the Hestreans to their cause. Those who resisted faced ruthless annihilation, their corpses reanimated as obedient, otherworldly abominations.
Now, as celestial bodies aligned in the heavens, the Fire Ice Tribe embarked on their inexorable march.
Burn the world.