The Formation of the Empire
Greetings, students. In this lecture we continue our discussion about the Four Kingdoms and what lead to the formation of the Empire. It has been just short of 50 years since the Fall of the Empire, but it still remains one of the greatest achievements we humans have ever created. For over 1000 years the Empire ruled Elhal, and with it brought forth prosperity to all its citizens. It was just one of two paths that humanity could have followed…
The Kingdom Era
For several hundred years the Four Kingdoms lived in somewhat relative peace. The kingdoms grew and became more established.
Stammiglin grew within the mountain range, and then started a slow migration into the eastern foothills. There they established trade with the villages and nomads of northern Monatobe. Its vast wealth of minerals and ores were eagerly sought by the other kingdoms. Stammiglin used their exports to supplement their weak agriculture. They imported large amounts of grain from Kotkala, because their rocky soil was ill-suited for that type of growth.
Monatobe had begun to move from the center of Elhal to the south. While Ceradome remained the spiritual capital, the ruler of Monatobe established a new political capital on the southern coast, and thus began the reign of the Sea Kings. Along the coast, the Monatobeans learned to fish and to craft ships. They began to explore the waters and to establish trade routes to the other kingdoms by following the shorelines. To date, we humans have not been able to navigate the waters beyond the sight of shore, unlike the Orc’s who have mastered ocean navigation.
After the exodus from Olmkala (a future discussion) the new kingdom grew rapidly. The ample wood of the western forests and the multitude of grain in the central plains allowed Kotkala to build towns and cities and to feed an increasing population. Many of the advances from Olmkala also migrated to the new kingdom, and the Kotkalan’s founded the first universities in their new cites.
The harsh tundra of southern Vaasari caused their people to migrate northward to the Great Glacier, where they could utilize the food of the sea. This made Vaasari the most isolated of the kingdoms. Using its supply of Haroon Pine they were able to build cites and small watercraft, though inferior to those built in Monatobe. In the warmer months they would travel south and make contact with northern Kotkala and ships from Monatobe. During the winter months Vaasari was alone.
Challenges Strain Relations
As time passed, the Four Kingdoms managed to co-exist with little trouble. There were the occasional border disputes and clashes, but nothing that amounted to any sustained conflict or war. Travel between Stammiglin, Monatobe, and Kotkala was frequent, with periodic travels to Vaasari.
Towards the end of this era, several events occurring within the span of fifty years would threaten to pull the kingdoms into a conflict on the scale of the Eon War.
The Isolation of Vaasari
The cultures of the southern three kingdoms began to intermingle, especially in the cities of Kotkala where the universities were attended by scholars from all kingdoms. The intermingling of cultures allowed the Stammiglins to share their blacksmithing technology; the Kotkalans to share their woodworking and agriculture; and the Monatobeans to share shipbuilding and cartography.
In Vaasari, however, things continued to be prosperous, but they were not advancing as much as their southern neighbors. Progress had stagnated in the north and Vaasari became more rooted in its traditions. They embraced the language first spoken on the Onyx Coast, instead of the common tongue. Because of their remote location and isolation during the winter months, they relied less on trade and more on being self-sufficient. Trade with the southern kingdoms was was nice but not required.
This lead to Vaasari being more xenophobic and less welcoming to visitors. Coupled with the harsh winters, that resulted in low numbers of members of the other kingdoms living in the north.
Vaasarians believed that they were on their own, and did not require contact with anyone else. This mindset never completely left Vaasari, and contributed to their fall, and Kotkala’s, to the Demons.
It was believed when the All-Father cleared the lands after the Eon war, that he left the continent of Elhal to the humans. As Stammiglin grew, it began to extend south into the deeper and more remote mountain ranges. When they reached the center of the great ranges, the Stammiglins discovered Giants.
The Giants are a race that dates back to the Eon Wars. They are known for their incredible size and strength, but also for their slow birth rates and small populations. The Giants were extremely xenophobic and attacked the humans upon their discovery, which in turn caused more humans to search the mountains.
In the course of a year things escalated from random attacks, to territorial conflicts, and finally into a war. The Giants clashed with the humans and pushed north. War raged for five years all through the mountain ranges. In the end, Stammiglin bought soldiers from Kotkala with its reserves of iron, and the promise of more gold and iron from the mountain territories they gained.
This new army of humans was able to push the Giants back into the central region, but they were never able to take the Giant’s home mountains from them. Eventually, both sides signed a peace treaty and established borders. Fearing a future conflict, Stammiglin chose to keep soldiers in the border regions. For the years following the war, they would funnel their efforts into putting a larger force in the area.
The effects of the war had spread over the culture of Stammiglin. They had a more militant mindset and approach. They greatly advanced weapon and armor designs as well as manufacturing processes. As a society, they had become more conditioned to fight when threatened.
The Great Grain Blight
Several years after the War of the Giants, a blight fell on the plains of Kotkala. The result was a loss of half of the grain harvest. For the population of Kotkala, it was not an emergency. The harvest was sufficient, when coupled with their grain reserves, to last the winter. But they would have no grain to trade to Stammiglin.
Stammiglin pleaded with Kotkala to share what grain it had, but there was nothing left to offer. Stammiglin did not have enough resources with which to bargain. They had yet to pay off their debt to Kotkala from the War of the Giants, as mining of the central mountains had just begun and had not yielded anything of value.
A heavily militarized and desperate Stammiglin saw little choice, and took matters into their own hands. They started a series of covert raids against the Kotkalan border towns. The Kotkalan’s retaliated and soon the two countries were close to war.
As tensions between Stammiglin and Kotkala rose, winter was setting in. Vaasari refused to provide support of either food or military for either country, choosing to remain isolated. This placed Monatobe in a difficult position. It was good friends with both kingdoms, and relied on both. It did not have fertile lands, nor did it have rich minerals. It also feared the large military of Stammiglin.
While the rulers of the Four Kingdoms were heading into a conflict, the Church of the All-Father was present in each Kingdom, pleading for the rulers to find a peaceful solution. They had limited success. They were able to convince all the rules to send representatives to Ceradome to meet with the First Father.
On the 19th of Hearthlight in the year 20 BE (before Empire), the representatives met in Creadome. The next four days would decide the fate of Elhal and Humanity.
Historians like to look for those key moments when the world could have gone in one direction or the other, those crossroads. In most cases we find that there is rarely a single event, but rather a series of events which lead up to a critical moment. That is what we see in the twilight of the Kingdom Era and the dawn of the Empire.
In our next lecture we will talk about what we historians call the Four Days, the days that would decide the fate of Elhal.