The Grand Duchy
|I||n ancient times, the land now called Karameikos was the forest homeland of the Traldar, men and women 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.|
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 art of the bow, the craft of medicine, the use of the potter’s wheel, the spinning of flax and the 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 years. Both sides lost great numbers of warriors; each Traldar warrior slew dozens of his bestial enemies before being slain.
Finally King Halav managed to find the king of the beast-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 kings growing so tired that each could barely wield his weapon. According to The Song of King Halav, both take time to rest during the fight and each describes his resolute and unfailing desire to contine the duel.
Eventually the two warriors both fell, slain by one another’s mighty strikes. The beast-men, now fearful because their king had been slain, saw the Traldar resolutely raising their weapons and barring them from advancing. They decided the men of Traldar were too powerful an army and fled back to their own homeland.
The Traldar mourned their king but turned their eye toward rebuilding their lands into a mighty empire.
The time of King Halav has since been called the Golden Age of the Traldar. Never able to fully recover from the devastation of the war with the beast-men, the people of Traldar watched their once great nation sink into darkness.
With food running scarce and many roads destroyed by the war, the people became more and more isolated. Subsistence farming was the primary lifestyle and most people never traveled more than a day’s journey from their own homes.
Dark creatures began to roam the countryside and soon the vilages were little more than points of light in a vast and dangerous sea of darkness. Eventually, however, trade began to flow between the nations of Thyatis and Minorthad. The Traldar lands prospered from this flow of trade and commerce.
The tribes of goblins, hobgoblins, and orcs which had settled in the Traldar lands were pushed slowly back until most of their number lived only in the Blackpeak Mountains to the north. Villages began to grow as markets and trading centers were established. Eventually, the land became known as Traladara and began to develop its own government. The Empire of Thyatis saw this as a threat to its own interests and stepped in about one hundred years ago.
The Empire sent troops to the Traladaran capital, Marilenev, and conquered it, claiming all Traladara for Thyatis. It installed a garrison of soldiers in Marilenev and renamed the city Specularum, the Mirror City, after the reflective beauty of the bay at the site. 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 Traladaran affairs 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. Duke Stefan wanted more than the ancestral holdings he had inherited and the Empire was interested in the valuable mineral deposits on Stefan’s lands. Duke Stefan offered the Emperor all his ancestral lands in return for Traladara. The Emperor had a full plate at the time and needed access to the iron and gold on Stefan’s land and Stefan was ready to strike out on his own. They soon came to a mutually beneficial agreement.
The Emperor recognized Karameikos’s claim to Traladara, now renamed the Grand Duchy of Karameikos, and recalled its officials from Traladaran territory. The new Duchy and the Empire signed a mutual protection and friendship treaty that called for the two nations to maintain unrestricted trade and military support for one another.
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 were characterized by both good and bad results.
On the bad side, many of the Thyatian 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, who enjoys a dubious reputation among both the native Traladarans and the Thyatians.
On the good side, Duke Stefan himself was an 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 build a substantial army, using native Traladarans, 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 young, with its two halves of the population 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 nations’ growing international importance.