History of Alvoran
Alvoran: Island of A Thousand Kings
For uncounted generations, the nation clans of the Isle Alvoran traded and warred amongst themselves (and occasionally with the mountain dwarves of the west and more rarely the elves of the nearby Verdani Isle). Though in many ways rustic and backward, with herding and warring their chief livelihoods, the Alvorani were a proud and fierce race of Men, unfettered by the bonds of more civilized nations. It was their constant struggles that earned their isle its name, for the rare explorers, sages and traders who came to Alvoran saw only innumerable tiny nations locked in eternal struggle with one another over the right to be called king of a stretch of pasture or a copse of wood.
Chief among these visitors were the Aurelians, sophisticated and technologically advanced, interested in Alvoran primarily as a curiosity, even a quaint vacation spot. the first Aurelian visitors were sent by the Aurelian Court to explore the edges of the known world. A few traders and scholars followed. If not but for two events, Alvoran would likely have stayed forever a vague outline on Aurelian maps of the world, barely worth the mentioning. The first event was the discovery by the Aurelians of the dwarves, who kept usually within their mountain halls, alternately battling trolls and goblins and mining precious metals. it was this last that caught the Aurelians’ attention. When an Aurelian trader sold arms to an Alvorani chieftain whose tribe traded with the dwarves, the chieftain paid not in the customary bushels of wheat or head of cattle, but cold hard silver coin. At the same time, trouble brewed in Aurel, the capital of that great civilization. In the course of three days and nights, democracy was given way to dictatorship and the First Emperor of Aurel crowned himself on the blood soaked steps of the venerable Aurelian Court.
Immediately, trade and exploration gave way to conquest and the Aurelian Empire extended its talons in all directions in search of slaves and tribute. When word of the vast wealth of the dwarves reached the First Emperor, legions were dispatched to Alvoran. Would that it had been so easy. The mountainside fortresses of the dwarves were impenetrable, and mere watchtowers besides: the true fortresses of the dwarves were dug deep into the mountains. These same mountains served as a bulwark against the Aurelian aggression, claiming as many legionnaires’ lives as dwarvish axes and bolts. The dwarves even used their traditional enemies as unwitting allies, allowing the goblins, trolls and worse to win a few outposts which led inevitably the Aurelian lines.
For thirty years the Aurelian Governor-General threw his forces against the mountains, using every artifice of man and magic he could summon, to no avail. However, during those years, the Aurelians became the de facto rulers of the Isle of a Thousand Kings, for the constant skirmished between and attacks by the Alvoran tribesmen distracted the already overextended Aurelian armies. Finally, the First Emperor recalled his Governor-General (to a cruel fate, no doubt) and replaced him with a more moderate Governor who set immediately about the dual tasks of securing trade agreements with the dwarves and “civilizing” the Alvorani tribal nations. For the dwarves’ part, they could hardly see the harm in accepting the money of those whose pride they had already taken and became staunch allies and trading partners with the Aurelian Empire, if not friends. The Alvorani were not so quick to accept the Aurelians, since for them the Aurelians offered little more than a yoke, but in the end it was Aurelian diplomacy that won out: equal parts threat, promise and manipulation. So it was that for two hundred years Alvoran was an occupied state of the Aurelian Empire.
During this time, the Aurelians introduced to the Alvorani their culture, technology and faith. Prior to the arrival of the Aurelians, the Alvorani worshipped a convoluted pantheon of pagan deities, nature spirits and demons, all under the guidance of their priest-judge Druids. By comparison, the Aurelian faith was elegant and sophisticated, the Heavenly Triad of the Sun (law and strength), the Moon (necessary change and reliable cycles) and the Stars (death and the unfeeling, ever watchful cosmos). To the Alvoran people, it was both simplistic and unsettling. All would have been well, with the two faiths living side by side, save that the Fourth Emperor of Aurel was also the first Holy-Emperor of Aurel, a priest risen to supreme station. His first commandment was that Aurelian client peoples the world over be converted to the worship of the Heavenly Triad, by the sword if necessary. The destroying of shrines, slaughtering of druids and conversions by torture perpetrated by the overzealous Paladins of Aurel led to the first Alvoran Uprising. Within three years, however, the Holy One was laid low by plague (for which a great many priesthoods throughout Aurelian controlled lands took credit) and his successor, the first Empress of Aurel, gave the Triad only lip service. Some persecution remained as a useful tool, but otherwise Alvoran returned to its state of uneasy peace between occupier and occupied.
It must be noted that throughout these two centuries the Aurelians attempted to use Alvoran as a launch point into conquest of Verdani Isle. They were rebuffed each time by the power of elven magic, netting the Aurelians little more than casualties and some few elven slaves. It was the willfulness and beauty of elven women that inspired many of these raids disguised as invasions (for how could any commander have believed they would truly gain a foothold on the elven isle), as well as elven mystical secrets that were sometimes found among the burning ruins of elven seaside fortresses. In the end, no Aurelian settlement was ever established on the shores of Verdani Isle and with very rare exception the only elves found among the Alvorani or Aurelians were slaves or the half breed offspring of Aurelians and elves. Strangely, at least to the minds of the Aurelians, the elves have never launched a counter assault against Alvoran, nor even attack the Aurelian ships while crossing the Straights of Verdani, as if all their power were held within the trees, rivers and stones of the isle itself.
Insolent tribal chieftains and druidic heresies were not the only problems faced by the Aurelians during this time. The northern highlands of the island were a rugged wilderness inhabited by ogres, giants, monstrous beasts and even dragons, as well as the savage human inhabitants whose violence and depravity made the Alvorani seem civilized by comparison. All occasionally raided the south even while the Aurelian legions pushed into the north in search of resources and lands. A century after landing, the legions made enough progress to hold the southern portion of the highlands and build the first Alvoran Wall stretching from coats to coat and ostensibly locking the monsters and barbarians behind it. Fifty years of war later a second Wall was built, opening the frontier to settlement and prospecting. It would not last, however, within two decades, the savages and monsters broke the second Wall and poured into the Frontier. Few managed to flee the razing of Aurelian homesteads and garrisons.
Meanwhile, the very foundations of the Aurelian Empire began to strain against constant expansion, war and seemingly ever more corrupt Emperors and Empresses. The Empire became indebted to foreign mercenaries, independent academies of wizards and even the church of the Triad at the core of the Empire itself. Over the years, fewer legions came to replace those lost in Alvoran and the local Alvorani began to fill in the ranks. By the time of the second Alvoran Wall, half of Aurelain legionnaires and a tenth of its commanders were either native Alvoran or half Alvorani and half Aurelian. The Aurelians even hired dwarven mercenaries to help the northward expansion, granting many citizen rights, if not status.
The end of Aurelian domination of Alvoran came suddenly. In the two hundredth and twenty second year of Aurelian rule, the Aurelian Empire exploded into civil war. The Lord Governor of Alvoran and the legions were called immediately back to Aurel. Their leaving, however, was not immediate. Word of the civil strife within the Aurelian Empire had reached Alvoran and Aurelian citizens, from craftsmen to soldiers to aristocrats, were divided. Upon the orders to return, the Aurelian occupiers quickly descended into infighting. The Aurelian civil war came to Alvoran. Alvorani dissidents, dwarven opportunists and northern savages all took advantage of the chaos and the Island was wracked by strife. In the end, half the legions and most aristocrats fled Alvoran. The rest, as well as many ordinary Aurelian citizens, remained behind to forge new lives on the Isle.
One aristocrat who remained, a general called Arturo, established himself as ruler of what remained of the Aurelian holdings of Alveron, which he christened Alvaurel. His first act was to free the slaves
- Alvorani and Aurelian alike - and grant them citizenship, and act unprecedented in both its generosity and its shrewdness: newly made freemen, by and large, gave him their loyalty and since Aurelian law required all free men to serve in the legions, he shored up his weakened forces against the many enemies of the new Alvaurel.
It is now the 299th year of the Aurelian presence on Alvoran. Arturo is an old king, beset by enemies in a land littered with ruins and treasures of a crumbled empire. As Arturo awaits death, bereft of an heir, Alvoran has become again the Isle of a Thousand Kings. It is a new dawn, an new era, one still hot from the fires of war and able to be shaped by those willing to hammer it into form. But even as this new dawn rises, a darkness gathers, stormclouds off the coast of Alvoran in the form of dragon-headed long ships. A new enemy is coming, one bent on rapine and conquest…