Human Wars and the Rise of Refugees


or so many years it was the warring human empires that had shaped the lands we passed through, yet now so many of the once vibrant towns and glorious cities lay in ruins. Our route criss-crossed between Albarian and Salkamaerian villages scattered along the borders of the once dominating realms. Some of the older merchants reminisced of the wealth and prestige the great cities had held, whilst others whispered of more harrowing times. It was not until late that evening, settled around the campfire, that our Master told his own tale of the Light Folk, Straight Folk and Free Folk.

Amongst humankind two divergent cultures emerged, the Light Folk in Salkamar and the Straight Folk in Albar. For centuries Albarians and Salkamaerians fought one another in what became known, after the first hundred years, as the Centennial Wars. Whilst the human cities vied for dominance, other races generally avoided the futile and seemingly never ending battles. The exception of course were the orcs who saw opportunity to loot settlements and destroy even vast cities as they succumbed to war.

Throughout Albar the lower classes suffered terrible hardship as nobles clamoured to feed their burgeoning armies. Rebellions were quickly quashed by whatever brutal means necessary. Over the years many fled to seek sanctuary in Salkamar, fueling bitterness between the two realms. Others found refuge in warm swamps to the south. Sustained by trade, sometimes of an unscrupulous nature, the refugee encampment in the swamps flourished and became established as the independent city of Gynk.

During the Shadow Winter, famine struck the city of Albar. Traditionally the peasants paid one tenth of their produce and income to their King. His own grain stores and treasury empty and with legions on the verge of desertion, King Theoderich II ordered the tithe to be multiplied by five. Almost a fourth of the lower classes perished from starvation that bitter winter. Another fourth of the peasant population escaped their brutal rulers, fleeing to Salkamar and Gynk in the coming spring. Albarian nobles claimed most of those that fled drowned in the swamps around Gynk, succumbed to the pestilence, or were hunted down by the legions. No amount of propaganda stemmed the tide of refugees though. Come the following summer, King Theoderich II died after a poisoned arrow struck his heart while hunting. Whilst it is assumed a well armed peasant took his life, others would have had far greater opportunity.

Some of the most bitter fighting followed the fall of Naskur, a fortified Salkamaerian city close to the border. Unusually other races were drawn into battle and countless individuals lost their lives. A gruelling siege beset upon the city by the Albarian army had already severely weakened the settlement. The watching orcish warhorde took full advantage, first annihilating the besieging Albarians before they pillaged and ransacked the city into the night. The orcs were only driven from the city by the small army of elves and dwarves that followed. Torn apart by endless battles the city was left decimated. Rumours were rife that the orcs were only the vanguard for these new invaders. Whereas the elves saw no reason for hostilities, their dwarven allies were deeply offended by the tarnishing of their honour but the Aramon Alliance nonetheless left the ruins of Naskur to continue their pursuit of the orcs.

Meanwhile, Albarian reinforcements had looted two halfling towns to sustain their legions as they attempted to circumvent the bulk of the Salkamaerian army. The remarkable resilience of the halflings took the Albarians by surprise though and they became trapped by legions of Salkamaerian riders and paladins coming to the aid of the halflings. Close to starvation, the Albarian army was forced to retreat and during the coming famine Albar lost seven border towns causing a shift in the border. Salkamar immediately began building extensive fortifications along the new border, receiving enormous assistance from the local peasants.

After centuries of war only the capitals of the old human empires stood, alongside the independent city of Gynk, newly founded by refugees. As the influence of Gynk grew, Salkamar sealed a pact with the Free Folk to pledge mutual support and repel the orcish warhorde. In time Albar was also forced to enter into the agreement or be left vulnerable to attack by the growing alliance and the ever present threat of marauding orcish tribes. Finally the united forces of Salkamar and Gynk, assisted by armoured riders from Albar were able to drive the orcs north. The remains of the orcish horde retreated back to Norodaj lands where still tracked by the Aramon Alliance they faced further losses.