Of Rust & Ruin
The kingdom of Kolstrad exists in a realm that was once ruled by primal druidic tribes, a great forest rumored to be the home of daemons and dark magics – a place to be avoided. Shunned by the civilized kingdoms of the west for its perceived dangers and feared by the Grod clans of the east due to their legends and myths surrounding the denizens of the archaic woodland, the forest existed in segregation from the rest of the world, its native peoples free to practice whatever rituals and customs they wished unmolested by the machinations of other cultures.
That changed when a Warlord of the Vohn, a brutal and ruthless tribe of men said to be descended from the giants of legend, marshaled his forces and marched into the dark primordial forest. Cutting down the trees around him this tyrant began a hunt to find a slay any man, woman, or child laying waste to the primitive peoples who called the forest home. Having no military to speak of the native population was methodically and mercilessly culled as the Vohn marched on. Eventually the warlord’s campaign of genocide came to a close – satisfied that the native population was sufficiently culled he planted his flag and claimed ownership of the land, becoming the first king of Kolstrad.
The United Front
Somehow word of the invasion reached the lords of the western kingdoms, men of science and reason, faith and unity, and strength of arms. A summit was held between the three nations who had been enemies at worst and tenuous allies at best for hundreds of years. There it was decided the threat of an invasion from the dread wood would see their lands burned and their generations of toil reduced to ash. Mustering their armies in the strongest united effort the three lands had ever shared, the kings of these mighty nations steeled their resolves and took the first steps into the cursed land by their people since the founding of their respective realms. Following their liege’s examples, the knights and men-at-arms followed in toe, step by terrified step.
Once the enemy was brought to battle the superstition and fear quickly dissolved amongst the allied hosts and, after many months of intense battle the allied forces of the west began to gain ground, forcing the barbaric enemy back foot by bloody foot. The bloodshed would continue for many years before the Warlord was finally repelled from the forest completely, leaving the united forces victorious and in possession of a realm they once feared and loathed. To act as a bulwark against future invasion each kingdom selected a single prince, tested in the field of battle against the Vohn, to act as wardens of the woodland realm. Massive hilltop fortresses and keeps were erected throughout the forest to act as watch towers and bastions against any external threat, a tremendous project that only served to steel the alliance of nations. Yet for all their enthusiasm and surety of purpose, the wardens would spend their life planning around and waiting for an attack that would never come, and in their winter years the alliance would finally crumble to ash as petty desires, paranoia and the machinations of unhinged minds came to the fore.
As the wardens and their bastion realms fell into chaos, each prince marshaling their forces against the others, the kingdoms the supported them also fractured as each threw its support behind its respective prince. The western realms clashed once more, this time battling over control of a land they once feared and loathed. Blood soaked all the lands until one realm emerged victorious, not only claiming the forested lands as their own, but also forcing dominion over their defeated enemies. Their king, soaring on the laurels of victory, declared himself emperor marking the end of the age of kingdoms and the beginning of the age of empire.
The Recent Past
Yet the unity and security promised by an empire only appeases the masses so long as the ruler has the ability to maintain those promises. After only two successors were crowned after the rise of the first emperor, that unity was shattered as the latest coronation placed a fool in power. Showing a lack of concern over governance and managing his people, the emperor withdrew to decadent affairs leaving his realm to ruin. Before long the governor-elects of each state began plotting their independence from the incompetence and impotence of a leaderless state.
The Rebellion was swift as each state rallied its forces and cast off the weak grip of the empire. In under a month the old kingdoms rose anew coronating their own monarchs and leaders and becoming independent, leaving the empire to pick up the pieces of their shattered realm.
Only five short years have passed since this rebellion and Kolstad has stood as a contending presence with its neighboring realms despite its shadowed beginnings. Yet there is still whispers in the dark that the darkest days have not yet passed, and that the land itself has developed a thirst for blood and conflict, a desire that will never truly be sated.