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    Emperor Alexander II
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  1. While the Queen tossed in her nightmares, Torugr stood guard in the chambers of Prince Marius, silently watching him as he lingered awake in the dead of night. Court drama and familial debacles gave the hulking, monstrous snow orc no heed; such intrigue was lost on him. Instead, as his fat belly began to rumble and growl, a more important thought entered his vacuous mind. Gazing intently at Marius, he muttered out the simple yet profoundly powerful question: ”Food?” @Dogged
  2. "Torugr very handsome." says Torugr, prepared to woo the female snow orcs in attendance.
  3. I believe @GMROis leading them now, I would suggest reaching out to him. Great to see you around old friend, hit me up on discord at yopplwasup to catch up.
  4. Ivan Kusoraev and the Conquest of Raev Part of the Golden Book As Recited from Oral Tradition By The Great Orc Torugr Translated and Transcribed By Hugor Ludovar & Wilhelm A. von Augusten b. 700? AES - d. 632 AES Preface (Untranslated from Snow Orcish Speech) Ugr book-man. Puny man say Torugr very smart. Torugr know Torugr very smart. Torugr know man-history. Puny man not smart. Puny man very weak. Puny man need help from boy-man. Puny man and boy-man write in book. Book taste bad. Torugr not like book. Book taste like plant. Make head hurt and tummy hurt. La-Dee Ehm-Mah help make tummy not hurt. Puny man say sorry. Puny man give Torugr lot of meat, so Torugr help puny man. Torugr tell puny man and boy-man man-history. Puny man say it for book-man. Puny man ask about Koo-zoo-rave, so Torugr tell puny man. Torugr hope book-man not weak like puny man. Puny man eat plant like elf. Book-man should eat meat like Torugr. Torugr very smart and strong. Ivan Kusoraev Arrives in the Raev Basin Origins of the Tykmundyl From the wake of the failed Rhenyari Invasions and the collapse of the Edelaw, the basin stood as a fragmented mosaic of vying principalities and autonomous cities. There was no Raev in the traditional sense of the word; although a common heritage and language bound the disparate peoples from the Huns to the Waldorf rivers, their identities laid dismembered in individual tribes, clans, and local ethnicities. For example, the northern settlers near the center of Surbzburg had enjoyed (or suffered) the longest time under Hansetian yoke, and many were patrilineal northmen who took residence in the fertile riverbeds of the Lahy. Farther south, in the metropolis of Lahy, its citizenry was a melting pot of disparate cultural influences from Akritian, Kreminian, and southern merchants. Writers of the era commonly referred to the geographical region of the Raev Basin- but it remained just that, a geographical construct rather than a political unity. The establishment of a ‘Raev’ state burgeoned almost by mistake. The conquering warlord Ivan, a chief of Karnat extraction, led a roaring band of adventurers, nomads, and ambitious freeriders across the Waldorf river, at first intent to raid and pillage in traditional Carnatian fashion, but later broke from the time-honed practice. Instead, with his traveling court and raving crew of mercenaries, he decided to remain- a choice driven by both his own ambitions and consequences burgeoning in his homeland of Carnatia. This fateful choice dramatically changed the course of history for the Raev basin and people therein; a decision which has directed history well into the contemporary era. But before scrutiny can be placed upon this point in history, detail must be gleaned from who Ivan actually was. Where did he come from? What were the circumstances that led him to cross the Waldorf? Why would he want to conquer the basin in the first place? Ivan was born sometime in the late 700s AES under the name Yivaenis Tchāmandaliya, a scion of a Karnat clan who lived in the great plains eastward of the Raev basin. His clan came from relatively recent history: its founder, Audohard, claimed Jorenite descent as an exiled princeling, finding himself in the employ of the Karnats and won both fame and fortune in their service. For his victories, especially in defeating the Levs in a disastrous battle which took them generations to recover from, they made him their head chief (or duke as it is commonly translated). From him, his descendants continued a string of elected chiefs for the Karnat people; Ivan was no exception to this lineage of warlords and leaders. His childhood and early life is an utter mystery to us, and only mythic recollections centuries after the fact remain. As with most classical history, it is difficult to ascertain fact from fiction. It is known that he was the eldest child of an ambiguous number of brothers and sisters; his most famous sibling, Radvany (or Radovan), fought and served under Ivan during his tenure as Duke of the Carnatians. An unnamed sister, with whom we can find little information, also is recorded to have married a cousin of Ivan, another warrior of his band. While the direct relations of his numerous cousins and kinsmen are murky at best, we can know that the people the young Ivan surrounded himself with were members of his greater family, a cohort that would form the core of his personal warband. It is presumed young Ivan was raised in a matter fit for a traditional Karnat child; that is, of course, trained in the arts of horseback riding and living the nomadic lifestyle which had guided the Karnat tribes for generations. His people never tarried in one place for very long, either following the migration patterns of big game or trekking on the war path for spoils and loot against their neighbors. The restless, constant moving of his upbringing shaped Ivan for the rest of his life, instilling in him both a sense of constant activity but also a lack of rootedness, which would importantly play into the politics of his later adventures. Despite its antiquity, the Karnats were a surprisingly cosmopolitan people, if not necessarily liberally progressive. Like Ivan’s own family, they accepted numerous non-Karnat into their fold, contrasting greatly to their more insular Lev rivals. While we cannot know the exact demographics at any given time, we do have records which show that Ivan’s warband consisted of a diverse set of individuals, ranging from native Karnats, Raev cossacks, Hansetian adventurers, Tarchary and Subudai horsemen, and all other sorts of ethnicities. Traditional Karnat society observed a tradition known as Karutjcha (literally “Karnat by the Sword”), in which non-Karnats were adopted into the tribe through military service. This multi-ethnic framework would serve as the foundation of Ivan’s views of governance, later carried on by his Nzechovic successors. Although Karnat views of ethnicity may seem quite modern compared to their contemporaries, they upheld a very strict patriarchal structure, even more severe in contrast to their neighbors. Most importantly, Karnats were a polygamous people, with high-ranking men having upwards to dozens of wives and concubines. Women were not allowed to fight, in stark opposition to the Hansetian and Raevir tradition of warrior-maidens. While the vast majority of the Highlands practiced strict agnatic succession (meaning women were usually barred from inheriting themselves), both the Hansetian and Raevir tribes allowed for females to pass claims to their male children. Karnats, meanwhile, did not allow for any enatic claims, whether for daughters or their daughters’ children. These differences in gender norms and legal succession rights would create centuries of feuds, beginning even during Ivan’s lifetime. Ivan most likely began his military career at the young age of 12, when young Karnat boys were given their first horse and allowed to enter into a Muuksjy, or warband. As previously mentioned, the Karnat Muuksjy was a group of men typically related either by blood or by adoption. Their ages would have been compatible, most of them teenagers with varying individuals in the early twenties. The Muuksjy formed the backbone of Karnat raiders, and these young men would pillage the lands of their neighbors to capture cattle, gold, and concubines. These were not necessarily unique to the Karnat people; Hansetians practiced a similar custom of the Mannerbund, while Raevir also formed raiding parties, although they were typically of older men in their early and mid-twenties. We are unsure what conflicts Ivan’s Muuksjy fought in, but most likely he fought against both the Raevir and Levs during his youth. The former were commonly allied with the Levs, as Karnats commonly threatened trade routes between the Raevir trade cities and the outside world. Banditry by Karnat bands were a common sight during the time, and it is presumed the young Ivan cut his teeth on pillaging merchant caravans and river-bound vessels. Ivan’s father, Harkany, was elected to the Karnat high chieftainship sometime during his young adult life, when Ivan had already begun to develop a reputation as a fierce and unyielding warrior. Harkany, like many of his fellow countrymen, were staunch enemies of the Levs, and pledged himself to a war against his Arenic kinsmen. With an oath made to the Karnat patron deity, the elk-god Lemdak, Harkany swore to push back the Levs who threatened to encroach on their ancestral land. Ivan, of course, joined his father in this ultimately disastrous campaign. Thus would begin yet another Lev-Karnat War. The Fifth Lev-Karnat War A Karnat horseman of mixed Karnat-Tarchar ancestry The fifth mass conflict between the Lev and Karnat confederations began seemingly in the Karnat’s favor. Harkany drove back groups of disorganized Lev parties which hunted game in the Karnat-claimed steppes. Incursions in Lev territory also bore fruit, with much of the Lev veterans occupied eastward. Harkany’s decision to strike was a strategic one: the Lev high chief Paldanais IV had been gone for the last two years, allied with a Raev army that was battling Hansetian tribesmen on the northern border of the Waldorf River. Unopposed, Harkany had full reign to march deep into Lev lands. Harkany, however, acted timidly. Against the vocal complaints of his sons Ivan and Radovan, Harkany moved slowly, not wishing to overextend his own host. While the Levs were currently unable to mount a successful counter-attack at the time, their remaining huntsmen could harass Karnat scouts. Harkany, whether due to inaction or inability, was unable to successfully survey the area, adding to his reasons for cautious, anxious approach. While it saved Karnat manpower in the short-term, this decision would ultimately prove fatal to his campaign. When the Lev and Raevir armies reached a peace with their northern neighbors, they marched back towards the Lev heartlands. Paldanais had taken a Raev woman as wife, and was apparently allied with one of the prominent Lahian clans at the time. His army, therefore, was bolstered by Raev mercenaries, which gave him a strong corps of infantry to complement his light cavalry. Because of Harkany’s slow approach, the Lev high chief was able to levy an additional auxiliary force from refugees fleeing towards the Lev capital. All-in-all, the combined Lev-Raev army now dwarfed Harkany’s own host. Paldanais’ forces raced to meet Harkany. He carefully selected a battlefield, and using a smaller company of soldiers to bait Harkany into attacking, laid a trap for the unsuspecting Karnats. Harkany unwittingly fell right into the Levs’ ambush. Believing what he faced was another ragtag band of herders making a futile attempt at resistance, he commanded his elite vanguard forth, with the remaining soldiers camped out on the steppe, drinking and feasting upon their spoils. Moving quickly, Paldanais quickly surrounded the Karnat horsemen in the field, subduing them with superior numbers. With the Karnats enjoying themselves in nighttime festivities, the Levs and Raevir charged into the campsite and began a massacre. Harkany, it is claimed, was killed wearing only his slumberwear, surrounded by his concubines in his own tent. This complete folly on part of the Karnat was only mitigated by the quick thinking of Ivan and Radovan. The pair were able to rally a small but sizable remnant of their father’s host, strategically retreating with some order still intact. The Levs and Raevir did not pursue, instead enjoying their victory and pillaging the grounds of the Karnat army. The Karnats had been defeated soundly, and news spread fast of the death of Harkany and the destruction of his would-be invasion force. Ivan attempted to save stragglers who survived the onslaught, but the damage had already been dealt. The Karnat host dwindled to barely a third of its original size, while Palandais’ allied army barely suffered any casualties. The Lev high chief now had unrestricted access to the tribal lands of the Karnats. Ivan for his efforts, with support of his brother Radovan, was declared by the remnant Karnat host as the new duke, mostly out of desperation. This election was technically illegal: Karnat legal custom dictated that a high chief is elected through a vote of the clan leaders. Most of the patriarchs, however, had perished in their unfateful ambush. Some of the Karnat clan heads, captured alive by Palandais, even swore fealty to the Lev chief. The questionable nature of Ivan’s ascension would be a sore point for the rest of his life. Palandais spent some weeks enjoying his victory, with every right to do so. A triumph on this scale in the centuries-long feud between the Karnats and Levs had not been seen since the time of Audohard over two hundred years before. In most accounts, the Karnats had been soundly destroyed and their domain ripe for the picking. However, Palandais’ decision not to pursue the fleeing Ivan would lead to an unfortunate outcome for his Raev allies. Ivan in Flight and the First Forages For the weeks and months after his father’s defeat, Ivan led the remaining Karnats deeper into their territory, attempting both to regain what strength they could and flee enemies trying to follow. With Palandais lavishing in his laurels, Ivan was able to make it to the Karnat capital (more of a permanent tent encampment than a true city) and muster up reinforcements and reserves. The army, however, was still a far cry from the large host his father had gathered nearly three years ago. For the first couple years, Ivan and his brother Radovan led a sporadic guerilla war against Palandais, although could do little to stop the Karnats from being continuously pushed out of the steppes. Many of the Karnat clans began delivering tribute to the Lev high chief, much to the dismay of Ivan. Food stores also began to dwindle. With the traditional hunting and grazing lands being lost, the Ivan’s loyal Karnats could not amass sufficient enough food stores to feed their horses and families. Ivan was becoming desperate. There is a question as to why Palandais did not immediately subdue Ivan with the latter being in such a precarious position. First, it seems many of his Raev allies had returned home, retaking their stalwart guard against the Hansetians north of the Waldorf. Second, while Palandais did hold the upper hand, his armies did suffer from their own issues. Many of his clan leaders wished to return and rebuild their cattle stocks, much depleted by the raids committed by Harkany some years ago. Palandais also had to deal with quarreling between his different clans, especially with the incoming Karnat clans that swore fealty to him. And third, Palandais seemed to have not considered Ivan much of a threat. His goal apparently was not to completely destroy the Karnats. Winning such a massive victory and relishing in the prestige which came from it was good enough for the chief. Ivan, weakened and now starving, looked to other avenues. Any attempts to counter-attack would lead Palandais to recall his Raev allies. Furthermore, a prolonged engagement to reclaim the steppes would prove calamitous in the long-term. He needed to feed his people in the interim, else suffer from attrition. During a late night meeting, Radovan suggested a simple solution: if the Raev are such close allies with the Levs, why not take what their tribe needed from them? The Raev basin was considered the breadbasket of the Highlands, after all; such spoils could help the Karnats overcome their logistical problems and help with regaining their strength. Not only this, the forces of the trade city of Lahy were tied down in the north, assisting the Surbzburg Confederation against the Hansetian threat. Dules, the other of the two main trade powers in the basin, had remained secluded in its city, having no wish to partake in aiding its competitor to the north. Striking the heart of the Raev basin, if even for a short time, could be fruitful. The first forage into the Raev basin was nothing more than a band of two hundred horsemen under one of Ivan’s lieutenants, pillaging a few villages along the border of the River Huns. While the gains were small, what the soldiers reported upon return would springboard even grander endeavors: the towns put up little fight, with sparse defenses even among the richest of settlements. Regardless, the raiders returned with much fanfare, their delivery of cattle and wheat being the first celebration that Ivan’s dwindled tribe held in years. And most importantly, this small achievement emboldened Ivan. If the Raev were such easy pickings as his scouts claimed, imagine what could be achieved with a fully-fledged army? In the second incursion, Ivan commanded a contingent of one thousand horsemen and other soldiers across the Huns, leaving little in his wake. He sacked a fair number of villages, but Hunsburg and Sovetsk were his greatest prizes, and it was only the weary gathering of an army in Lahy which sent him back to his side of the river. Ivan remained, however, both undefeated in battle and undeterred in ambition, and the loot which his army brought into their tribal homes spawned cries of praise upon the Karnats. It was, in all accounts, a victory- and one Ivan would quickly capitalize on. Ivan hoisted the banners of his under-clans and gathered the retinues, heralded as the largest force ever amassed since the Rhenyari invasions. Contemporary chroniclers, especially those of his Karnat clans, saw it fit to inflate the numbers tremendously: they report over half a million Carnatians which crossed the Huns. Most likely the number was quite smaller, ranging close from five to seven thousand. Still, however, it was an incredible show of faith in this endeavor on part of Ivan. These numbers included the vast majority of his soldiery, which would leave his remaining tribal lands almost entirely undefended. This was, by all accounts, a risky gamble that could pay-out big or leave Ivan as the biggest loser. News spread fast of this new invasion force. It became clear to all in the Raev basin that Ivan did not merely intend to raid and steal as was typical of the steppe peoples. Lahy and its allies had already begun preparations, pulling back their soldiery to their city and assembling a counter-force. Other minor princelings and trade cities did the same, and looked to Lahy to lead the coalition against the Karnats. The oddball out was Dules. As will be seen, they saw this new threat in a much different light. The Secret Pact In the year 658 AES, representatives met with Ivan secretly in a secluded tent near the captured city of Hunsburg. Members of this meeting included the Dulonian boyars Arkhip Nevenyev (future grandfather of Ivan’s successor Nzech) and Zorkan Timun (great-uncle to the future King Isaak I of Raev), the high matron of the Marsyr banking family Loecthel Marsyr, and the Raev landowner Naum z Shkurkovy. An agent sent from the united Hansetian tribes, a minor noble named Eldregund, was also present. Each had come for their own reasons, but all had seen the opportunity that Ivan presented. Nevenyev and Timun were two old, prestigious families of Dulonian blood. Both counted many princes and high officials within the trade city of Dules amongst their ancestral rank, and they were well respected by their peers. Most importantly, these two clans were perhaps the richest and most powerful patrician houses in the city walls. Their fortunes depended upon the success and flourishing of their home city. Since the Rhenyari Invasions almost a century ago, the city of Lahy had grown in wealth and importance, enriched by the expanded eastern trade with the lands of Rhen and beyond. Dules, meanwhile, had gotten the short-end of such an arrangement; indeed, with their southern trade diminished due to civil wars in the Heartlands, they began to slip behind while Lahy grew ascendent and ever more influential in the Raev basin. While their Raev countrymen saw the Karnats as a new, existential threat, Nevenyev and Timun gleaned a chance to right these current wrongs. If Ivan would agree to certain trade rights and privileges, as well as disrupting the Lahian trade routes, Dules could finally counter-balance the growing Lahian interests in the wider basin. Marsyr was a Harrenite family, originally a clan of Adunians who remained in the Highlands upon the collapse of the ancient Adunian Empire. They were perhaps the most curious members of the meeting, and those who suffered the most to lose if their participation was known to the wider world: the Marsyrs had grown rich as a banking family, based almost exclusively in Lahy proper. Banking as it is traditionally known did not exist during these days; rather, the Marsyrs grew their fortunes as money changers, offering to exchange currencies between the wide-array of diverse merchants and caravans who came to Lahy to trade. They did this, of course, with a minor interest rate at the cost of the merchant. In recent years, the Marsyrs had begun expanding their interests into funding trade caravans. Both of these interests, however, had started to come under threat. Under complaint of the boyars and influential families, the Lahy government had started regulating the interest rates which the Marsyrs could charge. Furthermore, Lahy had placed tariffs on trade to finance their military escapades, the heaviest hit being those owned and operated by the Adunian minority. Therefore, the Marsyrs sought aid in Ivan: humble the current Lahian regime and revoke the tariffs and regulations which strangled their enterprises. Naum z Shkurkovy was a wealthy Raev landowner and noble who owned vast amounts of land in the western basin, which formed one of the few true “feudal” entities as is commonly understood. The Shkurkovys styled themselves as princes on equal standing to their Dulonian, Lahian, and Surbish counterparts, although were not readily accepted as such. About five years prior, Prince Shkurkovy had suffered a humiliating treaty with the Lahian boyars, losing a large tract of his property and being forced to submit to trade agreements that heavily favored Lahian interests. His objective was hence simple: see Ivan return his lost lands and kill as many Lahian fat-cats for good measure. It is unclear which Hansetian tribes Eldregund represented, and even the meeting-goers seemed confused. Hanseti as we know it today was not the Hanseti of this era. Instead, the Hansetians were divided between over a hundred different tribal entities, ranging from powerful confederations like the Almannir and Waldemannir (Waldenians), to smaller clans that could barely muster a hundred full-blooded warriors. Most likely, Eldregund had been sent from the tribes which bordered the northern Huns, including the Grunmannir (the Green Men) and the Dorungmannir. These tribes and many more had direct connections to the Surbzburg Confederation, dominated primarily by Hansetian trade interests. During the time of the Edelaw over two centuries ago, Surbzburg had been the de facto capital of Hansetian occupation, and while the Hansetians had been pushed out, they still had countless cousins, familial links, and direct claims to this northern part of the Raev basin. Most importantly, however, the Lahian armies had been counteracting any potential Hansetian raids into the north. Having Lahy drawn away from the Huns and focusing on politics farther south in the basin played well into Hansetian hands. Beyond this, we do not know what else was discussed or agreed upon by all the parties. Over three weeks of negotiations, all interested members seemed to reach an agreement: they would support Ivan in tackling the Lahian problem and in return Ivan pledged to uphold his promises to rectify the perceived wrongs against them. To seal this contract, Arkhip Nevenyev agreed to marry his daughter, Myrika Nevenyev, to Ivan. His daughter vehemently contested this arranged marriage; she found Ivan to be barbaric and uncivilized. Yet despite these complaints, Myrika seemed to have performed the lofty duty laid upon her by her ambitious father. For the next year, Nevenyev and Timun allowed Ivan and his Karnat army to camp in Dulonian lands and provided them food, arms, and horses; it was during this thirteen month span that Myrika gave birth to Nzech (Nestor), Ivan’s future heir. Battle of Khulinovo Bridge The Battle of Khulinovo Bridge Meanwhile, Lahy eyed the Karnat encampment in the southern basin with great suspicion. While the details of Ivan’s agreement were not known, the Lahian boyars grew apprehensive of a bigger plot at play. Lahian contingents were slowly pulled away from the northern border, and messages were sent to Lahy’s allies of a potential attack from the south. When Ivan heard that Lahy was amassing, he decided to preemptively strike. In the winter of 656 AES, Ivan ordered his host and auxiliary allies to march. Much to Ivan’s dismay, however, the winter season this year proved absolutely brutal. Thick snows made it difficult to traverse, and Ivan, ever impatient, ordered a forced march. The toll this put on his army was devastating: it is said that numerous soldiers froze to death, and almost a third of their horses were butchered in order to feed his armies. But Ivan remembered the mistakes of his father Harkany, and he swore never to repeat them. Although his trek north to Lahy was difficult and costly, the same could be said for the Lahian forces. In the north, some of their regiments were bogged down by Hansetian raids, although these incursions were haphazard and poorly organized. The Hansetians, while wanting an Karnat victory, held little faith in his actual success, and did little to vindicate their side of the contract. Instead, it was the winter weather which showed to be the best ally. Lahy’s ally approached Lahy at a snail’s pace, taking little to chance, with some parties even remaining in their home during the harsh winter. By the time of early spring, when Ivan finally arrived close enough to threaten Lahy, only half of their total army had made it to the city perimeter. While the Hansetians showed to be lukewarm allies at best, the same could not be said for Prince Shkurkovy. In fact, he held the exact opposite issue: rash and eager to fight against Lahy, he moved ahead of Ivan in the west. Lahy sent a part of their army to fight the Shkurkovy streltsy, and the latter was resoundingly crushed in totality. Prince Shkurkovy himself was captured in battle, where he was executed on the field, with many of his kinsmen facing the same fate. Disobeying orders from the Lahian elite, however, the small Lahian cohort decided to move into Shkurkovy territory, leaving them unable to reach Lahy in time to assist against Ivan. Although their supposed plan did not actualize as originally intended, this course of events helped Ivan greatly. The Lahian army was lacking their full manpower, but they were not an insignificant force. The streltsy levies of the bulk Lahian host were supplemented by the elite Burgundian Order, the intrepid band of heavy cavalry and pike infantry who defended Lahy from their mighty fortress of Burgstad. The grandmaster of the order, Lord Hzinmil Lorisky, a cousin of the current Lahian prince Gostislav Lorisky, commanded the army. Hzinmil was a battle-hardened veteran of over fifty years, with ample military experience to make him a formidable opponent. Upon seeing the encroaching army, Hzinmil attempted to move his soldiers into the city. Such was a tactical move, as Hzinmil correctly surmised that his current army would not be able to defeat the Karnat cavalry in the field. Instead, they would wait behind the large walls of Lahy and await their incoming reinforcements. Unfortunately for Hzinmil, however, his soldiers were slow moving and Ivan was making speedy progress towards the trade city, much faster than the Lahians anticipated. By the time Ivan had arrived with his mobile vanguard horsemen, Hzinmil was still attempting to transfer his position inside Lahy. His lines were spread thin, and Ivan decisively chose to attack while his enemy was exposed. Hzinmil realized his strategic blunder. In order to salvage his meager chances, he personally commanded the heavy infantry of the Burgundian Order to protect his rear, hoping to stave off the Karnats so that the remaining streltsy could enter the safety of Lahy’s walls. Hzinmil chose to make his stand at a wide bridge near the village of Khulinovo, one of the few access points that led across the Blue Huns. The Blue Huns was a deep and ultimately treacherous crossing, which forced Ivan to have to take control of the bridge. However, charging straight into this choke point would play right into Hzinmil’s grasp. Ivan heard of the reputation of the Burgundian Order, and if his vanguard got tied down, he could lose his current advantage. Confiding with Radovan, Ivan decided on a daring move: he ordered his brother to take half the Karnat cavalry and ride a day west, where the Blue Huns was shallow enough to cross with horses, and flank Hzinmil’s heavy pikemen and infantry. In the meantime, Ivan kept pressure on the Burgundian contingent guarding the bridge. His cavalry harassed their lines, and during the night he had fake campsites built in order to disguise the Karnat’s true numbers. Hzinmil had planned for a potential flank to his side, although had little resources to guard both the bridge and the plains on either side. When Radovan made his crossing and rode to Hzinmil’s side, the paltry contingent of Burgundian spearmen could do little against the mobile horse archers that the Karnats employed. Hzinmil quickly attempted to reinforce his struggling right flank, and when Ivan saw the center slowly dwindle, he ordered his frontal assault. The battle, by all accounts, was a bloody affair. The Burgundians held fast for many hours, and the casualties on both sides were significant. Yet as time went on, the Burgundians, surrounded on both sides, began to waver. Hzinmil himself tried to rally the center by entering the fray himself, but when he was cut down by an arrow which pierced his neck, the Burgundian line shattered. The Karnat cavalry quickly pushed out the Burgundians, with stories saying they were slain to a man. A small group of Burgundians, led by the future grandmaster Premsyl of Ulonkorwitzyi, were able to retreat in good order, yet the damage had already been done. Horsemen under Radovan and Ivan continued the chase, striking the still-moving streltsy lines in the rear. A mass rout occurred, and many of the Lahian levies fled, some drowning in the Blue Huns while attempting to flee the fray. Only a paltry number of the original Lahian army had entered the city. While the victory was great, Ivan had yet to win the war. The walls of Lahy still stood defiant, had the city had amassed enough streltsy and auxiliary conscripts to man their defenses. Much to Ivan’s dismay, a siege would be necessary to finally break Lahian resistance. Ivan’s Finest Hour: The Battle of Zelenya The siege of Lahy began in the spring of 655 AES. The remainder of Ivan’s army finally arrived to join his horse vanguard. In addition, with confidence boosted by his recent victory, a detachment of Dulonian streltsy came to reinforce, led by a cousin of the Nevenyev family. Spirits were high at first, but both Ivan and Radovan expected the siege to last for a considerable time. There was a reason why Lahy had become known amongst the Raev and Highlands alike as the ‘Graveyard of Conquerors’. Lahy, despite being surrounded, was a considerable feat to conquer: its walls had never fallen, even during the Rhenyari Invasions, and had been upgraded since then by Magian architects. Furthermore, it was difficult if not nigh impossible to cut off supplies being smuggled into the city. Numerous rivers and tributaries flowed into the city, as well as expansive catacombs that were difficult to control for. Ivan, for all his gains, feared that he would flounder at this final moment. To aggravate Ivan’s worries, news of the Lahian reinforcements that had been delayed during the winter were finally coming to the city. Much worse, this contingent was joined by none other than Palandais and his Lev host, his alliance with the Lahian boyars reaffirmed. Palandais brought another unlikely ally in the form of Zay Xaydar Khan, a tribal warlord of the Subudai who brought with him his notorious horse lancers. The Dulonians urged Ivan to retreat and regather their strength, but Ivan stood undeterred. He ordered the siege to continue. Palandais and the coalition forces arrived in the late spring, coming across a quite peculiar sight. In preparation, Ivan had order the construction of a wooden wall which surrounded his outside perimeter, along with an inner wall that surrounded the much larger Lahian stone embankment. It is reported that when Palandais first saw the situation, he laughed so heartily that it was heard as far as the Lahian Palace of Princes. Ivan had come to lay siege, but now he faced a siege himself. For the next few months, Palandais sent skirmishers to test the defenses of Ivan’s makeshift timber facade. What ensued was a constant back-and-forth. Palandais would breach a small part of the wall, then get repulsed and the wall bolstered and reinforced. Meanwhile, Ivan would attempt to out-flank Palandais’ army, only to have his horsemen pushed back. Neither side could get the upper-hand. Lahy, on the other hand, still stood defiantly, yet its cracks in its insurmountable defense started to show. One impatient commander attempted to sally out when he saw Palandais attack Ivan’s rudimentary fortification, only for he and his small band of ambitious warriors to get slain to a man. Also, the food which Lahy depended on smugglers bringing were now being confiscated by Palandais and his army. This was not an immediate concern for the Lahian defense; after all, they had ample food stores to last years. Yet, this did bring strain on the higher members of Lahian society who no longer could import the more expensive delicacies into the lofty manors. Also, as the siege tarried on, riots broke out in the Adunian Quarter of the city, believed to be secretly orchestrated by the Marsyr family. By the fourth month, civil disobedience became common, and ethnic tensions flourished between the different minorities within Lahy’s multiple districts. Food shortages also began to erupt in Ivan’s host. The extra munitions which the Dulonians brought would only last till the end of the summer, especially with how large his army had grown. Some parties attempted to hunt in the countryside, but these groups were harassed and beaten back by Palandais’ patrols. If Ivan could not find a way to defeat either Palandais or force the Lahians to surrender the city, he would be forced to retreat for the winter. By a stroke of luck or divine providence (depending on who you ask), a fortunate opportunity came to Ivan. Zaq Xaydar Khan, the Subudai ally who joined Palandais in his war, had grown restless over the four months of stand-still. He and his men had been promised a quick war, one in which he was promised an exorbitant amount of the spoils and prestige. The Subudai, unlike the Levs, had little interest in the internal political dramas of the Raev. Simply put, they longed to go home, especially as autumn soon approached. Disobeying the orders given by Palandais, Zaq Xaydar decided to take matters into his own hands. With his entire Subudai contingent, he personally led a mass assault on the southern part of Ivan’s wooden barricade. At first, the Karnats and Dulonians were taken by complete surprise, and it seemed that Zaq Xaydar’s mission would prove successful. Subudai soldiers overtook the southern part of the wall, and Ivan commanded his brother Radovan to quickly fill the gap and push out the Subudai. Palandais did not hear of his subordinate’s folly until two hours after the fighting began, and he apparently entered a furious rage. Not wishing to lose the valuable Subudai allies, he tried to muster his encamped forces to aid. The battle was ferocious. Gains made by the Subudai in the first hour were slowly lost in the second hour, as more reinforcements led by Radovan quickly trickled in. As Palandais began marching to assist, his forces were slow and disorganized to rapidly reach the Subudai. In the chaos, Ivan saw a chance. As Palandais’ army was effectively divided into two, Ivan took up his remaining reserves, consisting of his elite Karnat vanguard and Dulonian streltsy axemen, and marched out from the north to face Palandais. The Lev chief was taken completely off-guard. Near the small village of Zelenya, which consisted of a total of five hamlets, the Karnat horsemen charged at a breakneck pace. Palandais’ elite Lev cavalry, already close to the Subudai breach, saw what was happening across the field and quickly tried to return back. The remaining Lev and Lahian soldiers were completely caught by surprise; Ivan, leading from the front, crashed into the fray, and it did not take long for the contingent to rout. Palandais, who had rode with his horsemen, saw the writing on the proverbial wall. It was a startling and crushing defeat on part of Lahy. The Subudai were pushed back by Radovan, the tribal soldiers now bloodied, angry, and having lost many quality veterans. The Lahian forces under Palandais broke and routed in disarray, with many stragglers being cut down by the chasing Karnats. Palandais, who did not wish to dedicate his remaining Lev cavalry, decided to abandon his alliance and go back to his homeland. And from the walls of Lahy, the boyars looked on in horror. Somehow, despite the odds, Ivan had won. More importantly, there were no longer any hindrances for Ivan to resupply his siege. The promise that Prince Gostislav Lorisky made to the people about the war ending by winter was dashed. By all accounts, Lahy could have continued to siege for years, but the strain on their coffers with the blockade of trade and the restless peasantry made them rethink their current plan. Ivan had made a deal with Dules, after all, and some boyars reasoned that they too could pay tribute to the Karnat warlord and return to business as usual. Prince Gostislav originally remained contumacious and obstinate; Ivan did kill his cousin Hzinmil at Zhulinovo Bridge, and it was a slight that the Lahian leader would not forget. Even so, the boyars of the Lahian duma were restless and non-compliant. They wanted a return to the status quo. And so, in the autumn of 655 AES, Prince Gostislav and a group of boyars sent a message to Ivan that he wished to sue for peace. Kusoraev The Lahian Boyars Submit to Ivan Ivan marched into Lahy as if it was his greatest triumph. And, in fairness to the Karnat chief, it truly was a marvelous victory. Lahy had not fully surrendered, and Ivan knew that he could not impose harsh terms. By an oath he made in the grand temple of Lahy, where the hundreds of pagan deities had their shrines, Ivan swore not to sack the city and guarantee the safety of Lahy’s boyars and citizenry. In exchange, Lahy agreed to a plethora of terms and conditions. First, Ivan made good on his promises to the Dulonians and the Marsyr family. Trade routes and tariffs were reformed in favor of the erstwhile allies of Ivan. This was a hard sell to the Lahians, but one in which they endured. Second, a treasure trove of gold was paid directly to Ivan, the easiest reparation that Ivan demanded. Lahy was rich, and its boyars reasoned that such a donation would be easily regained. And third, perhaps the most important for its longstanding ramifications, Ivan was declared ‘Protector and Suzerain of the Great Lahy.’ By grant of this title, Ivan swore to protect the interests of Lahy, especially regarding its own outward threats against banditry on its trade routes. It seemed something of little consequence to the Lahian boyars, but little did they realize it would lay the stones for Ivan’s kingship five years later. To cement the peace, much like was done between Ivan and the Dulonians, Prince Gostislav begrudgingly gave away his niece Lenyza Lorisky as another one of Ivan’s wives. From this union, Ivan produced a ‘second’ son: Kassak. While Nzech remained in Dules with his mother, Ivan took a liking to his new child in the years he spent at Lahy, doting on him and treating him with favor. Kassak and Nzech were not the only children that Ivan would have during his time after the victory at Zelenya. Ivan held a wide array of concubines and wives throughout his life, as was common for Karnat chiefs during the era. The actual number of his offspring is unknown, but traditional histories tell of seven ‘main’ sons that were recognized by Ivan during his life. These were Nzech (his eldest son by Myrika Nevenyev), Kassak, Karsa, Valyk, Terviko, Zydrun, and Woyze. Each of these scions had different mothers, and the influence of them would have long-reaching effects on the nascent court politics which began to emerge around Ivan. The most important question, and one in which most are curious about, is when exactly Ivan was declared ‘king’. He is, afterall, considered the first monarch of the King of the Raev (Ruska). Soon after his victory at Zelenya, his soldiery declared him ‘Kuszo Raev’, or Kusoraev, which roughly translates to ‘of All Raev’. For the first five years of his domination of the basin from 654 to 649 AES, Ivan made no notion to claim a higher, regal title. After his suzerainty of the Lahy was established, Ivan agreed to assist both Lahy and the Surbzburg Confederation against Hansetian raiders. This campaign, which lasted for two years between 652 to 650 AES was mostly uneventful. Small skirmishes erupted on the border of the Waldorf River, but no strategically important engagements occurred. What was vital, however, is that the Hanso-Raev aristocracy, seeing the success Ivan had in defending their borders and trade routes, agreed to accept Ivan’s protection, much in the same way both Dules and Lahy had done. By the winter of 650, Ivan was now, atleast on paper, the protector of all three important polities (Lahy, Dules, and Surbzburg) within the Raev basin. Flirtations with the kingly title did not occur until 649 AES, stemming from a peculiar encounter. Merchants from the distant land of Cathant had visited Ivan’s residence at the Palace of the Princes, and upon seeing the way Ivan lived and held authority over the city, referred to him as ‘king’. Ivan seemed to have been gleeful at being called such. The next week, much to the surprise of the Lahian boyars, Ivan walked the main square of Lahy wearing a simple yet ornate crown. The more belligerent of the Raev aristocrats whispered harsh criticisms, yet ultimately no action was taken. A month later, Ivan signed his first official document under the style ‘King and Protector of the Lands of the Waldorf and Huns’. It was written in an unimportant correspondence to an Hansetian chief regarding a discussion about river waterway rights. Again, as before, some courtiers and landowners chastised such an honor behind closed doors, but nothing came from it. Business had returned to normal and most were content with the current status quo. In the autumn of 649 AES, however, Ivan decided to make a more formal, startling announcement. Every ten to fifteen years, depending on the circumstances of geopolitics in the basin and other logistical issues, there was a large religious celebration held in the small village of Pistravyets, a western settlement that, at the time, was under Lahian control. This festival was, in name, a spiritual observance to the Raev pagan god Gorm the Three-Eyed Crow, an important deity in the pantheon; as such, this occasion drew many from all corners of the basin and even those from Greater Hanseti and the steppes. Peace was enforced strictly by the priestly caste: no weapons were allowed within the boundaries of the village and brawling was prohibited on threat of mutilation or death. Dulonians, Lahians, Surbish, and other assortment of Raev tribes and ethnicities gathered in the city. Ivan, typically not one for such occasions, made a surprising appearance along with his retinue. Small gasps were heard as he entered the grounds: Ivan wore atop his head a golden crown. Crowns had been taboo among the Raev for some generations; while Ivan had worn one previously, to do so on holy grounds was an especially heinous breach of social norms. Standing next to the wooden totem of Gorm, Ivan declared himself that he would adopt the title as ‘King of All Raev’. Murmurs followed, and some fights broke out between supporters and critics of this announcement. Priests broke up the brawls, but many onlookers feared another war to break out soon. Yet nothing seemed to have occurred. Complaints and small revolts erupted in some rural areas, but the expected rebellion by the elite boyars and landowner never materialized. Some were apathetic; the Raev basin had been under control of kings in the past, such as the Edelaw and the brief Rhenyari occupation of Basileus. Others thought it to be a small blip in history; no one expected a lasting Raev monarchy, and the most critical of Ivan sought to just wait until his death. Lastly, there was a small minority who supported the move, specifically the Dulonians. They enjoyed expanded rights and privileges, and it was from their ranks that Ivan pulled courtiers from to govern his makeshift realm in his stead. Ultimately, regardless of the reason, no one directly opposed Ivan. It should be noted that Ivan was not keen on direct administration by his own hand. He was a warrior and raider by birth, and he cared little for the spats and feuds of the nobility, burghers, and the like. Most of his governance was left up to the autonomous fiefs and cities which dotted the land, and any sort of central government was staffed primarily by his Dulonian supporters, who had the most to gain from having a unified Raev. Life, however, carried on normally for the vast majority of the people in the basin. Tribal divisions continued to persist, cities minted their own currency, disparate laws and enforcement varied between each sub-entity. Ivan being king changed little to nothing of the everyday lives of the average Raev denizen. And such would be the case for the rest of Ivan’s ‘reign’, beginning traditionally at 649 and ending 632 AES for a total of seventeen years. These years were uneventful beyond military adventures and campaigns that Ivan pursued for his own glory, many of which would flounder. Two important events though should be noted: Ivan’s reborn military expedition against his archrival Palandais and the unfortunate episode of the Burgundian Virgin. The Sixth Lev-Karnat War Ivan had not forgotten the shameful defeat of his father Harkany decades ago, nor did he forgo his claims as the Duke of the Karnats. Palandais, although defeated at Zelenya, had been able to escape the clutches of Ivan, something which drove him to immense rage. His invasion of the Raev basin, after all, had been primarily to weaken the Levs and reclaim his birthright. Now, with that achieved, Ivan sought to continue what his father began all those years before. In 645 AES, Ivan began forming plans with his brother Radovan for a new campaign deep into Lev territory. Although the Lahians vehemently opposed supporting such a military escapade, Ivan could depend on his Dulonian allies and other assortment of patchwork Raev vassals. Radovan did voice some concerns, specifically that he did not trust the Lahians to remain pacified while Ivan left back to the steppes. Ivan understood this risk, and much to the dismay of Radovan, appointed his brother to steward the kingdom in his stead. He took with him half of his Karnat cavalry, the rest of his army made up of Raev streltsy and auxiliaries, and traveled across the Huns towards his old homeland. Curiously, he took with him as well his second son Kassak. Only about a fourth of the original Karnat lands remained under Ivan, with the rest consisting lands either conquered by Palandais or tribal chiefs that swore fealty to Palandais. When Ivan had entered the Karnat steppes, some of these chiefs came back to his banner; others were brought low by the sword. Although Ivan had with him a large army of grizzled veterans, there was no great battle which saw him overcome the Levs once and for all. Palandais was smart, and knew he could not defeat Ivan in open battle. Instead, guerilla warfare broke out as Ivan slowly but surely reclaimed his homeland piece by piece. It took three years in total, where in 642 AES Ivan had finally reached the borders that his father had before the Fifth Lev-Karnat War. Ivan did want to march into Lev territory, yet he heard of commotion back home. He did not receive the full story right then and there, but he was reported by messengers from his brother that a rebellion erupted in Lahy; something to do regarding the pesky Burgundians. The Raev contingent of his army also grew weary. They did not find the steppe pleasing, and many wanted to return home to their wives. Pay was also due, and it had been almost a year since Ivan had given wages to his soldiers. Palandais also was open to a peace agreement. The Lev chief was growing old, and it is reported that it became difficult for him to ride a horse due to a bowel disease. In a disgruntled fashion, Ivan and Palandais agreed to a treaty which reconfirmed the ancient borders of the Karnats and Levs. Ivan had wanted to conquer the Levs in their entirety, but he would be bitterly content with what he had gained. His army eager to return, he marched back across the Huns. Abduction of the Burgundian Virgin The so-called ‘Abduction of the Burgundian Virgin’ is perhaps the most confusing and complicated chapter of Ivan’s history. The facts of the incident are vague and conflicting through different accounts. The spark of the event came from the niece (sometimes cousin or daughter) of the Burgundian grandmaster Premsyl of Ulonkorwitzyi being ‘abducted’. Some say Ivan himself had lusted after the beautiful maiden, and wishing to take her as another polygamous wife, ordered her to be kidnapped. Some say that the Ulonkorwitzyi girl had fallen in love with Ivan and decided to marry him. Others say Ivan was not involved at all: it was his brother Radovan who abducted her, or one of Ivan’s sons, or even a random Karnat warrior. Others still say the event never even happened, that the whole chain of circumstances was concocted by Lahian partisans who wished to incite a revolt against Ivan. Whatever the case, Premsyl believed that his female kinsman had been stolen, and he would not sit down idly. When Ivan returned to the basin in the year 641 AES, his brother Radovan had already been ousted from Lahy. The Burgundians and a mob of streltsy had taken over the Palace of the Princes, declaring the city once more independent. News spread like wildfire, and it appeared that other tribes and localities would join this uprising. The newly-fledged kingdom that Ivan had conquered threatened to dissolve into a civil war, his life’s work vanishing before his eyes. Ivan had to act fast. Reconvening with the fleeing Radovan, he marched directly to Lahy to bring order to the city as soon as possible. It was a harsh forced trek, wasting no time to camp or meander. Once he reached Lahy, he found that the city had already fallen under complete control of the Burgundians. Gossip emerged that the grandmaster Premsyl was in correspondence with the Levs for a renewed alliance. Also too, Premsyl vowed that he would not surrender the city like Prince Gostislav did all those years ago. Ivan was hesitant to lay siege immediately. The Raev streltsy of his army were not keen on fighting, and they still lacked their wages promised to him. Furthermore, some of his Raev chieftains threatened to abandon him if he took up direct arms against Lahy. Many held sympathy for Premsyl: most Raev found the polygamous lifestyle of the Karnats strange and despicable to their societal mores. Thoughts of economic factors like trade and tariffs were not the focal point of this emerging conflict, but rather a ethnic and cultural divide between the Raev and its Karnat overlord. After a day of pondering, Ivan decided to demand Premsyl to a challenge deriving from Raev and Hansetian customs: a duel between the pair, armed with only clubs. Such was a practice that claimed ancestral origins from the old days of Joren and the Land of Edel, and one which the Raev knew all too well. Many cultures of the Highlands called it different names, but the most famous being the Hansetian rendition of ‘Trial of the Rills’. The Karnats of Ivan’s host guffawed at this notion, but it seemed to please the local Raev. Premsyl readily accepted. As according to tradition, the duel occurred behind closed doors within the Great Temple of Lahy, refereed and monitored only by the pagan priests. We do not know what happened during the course of the duel nor how long it lasted. What is known, however, is that both Ivan and Premsyl survived; not only that, the peasantry were shocked to see the two laughing and hugging as they left the temple. A peace had been made. The agreement was as follows: Ivan would see Premsyl’s kinswoman returned, and if a marriage was officiated, it seemed to have been annulled by the pagan priesthood. Furthermore, Ivan gave a generous donation to the Burgundian Order, even delivering materials to greatly expand their home of Burgstad. Also, the Burgundian Order was given sole authority for the protection of proto-Canonists, a currently insignificant sect in the Raev basin but a decision that would have tremendous consequences centuries later. In return, Premsyl returned the city to Ivan and swore that the Burgundians would uphold his reign and ‘the reign of his true successors’. As before, this latter stipulation would become much more importance in the future. Small riots and peasant uprisings did still emerge, but they were quickly crushed or abandoned their ventures once they heard of the peace made between Ivan and Premsyl. The disaster had been averted. Death and Conclusion King Ivan I Kusoraev, as depicted in a mosaic found in the Basilica of Saint Joren and the Broken Chains For the rest of Ivan’s reign between 640 and 632 AES, the atmosphere was calm and uneventful. Ivan did participate in some military excursions in the north during the year 638 AES, but had to retreat once the winter snows arrived. When Palandais died in 636 AES, there were talks of a new Lev-Karnat War, but nothing seemed to have materialized. In 635 AES, Ivan began to develop a cough which only worked for the next three years, which forced him to remain in Lahy for the remainder of his life. It is believed he had a lung disease stemming from the ingestion of sand and dust during his youth on the steppe; a common illness which affected most steppe peoples. During the last three years, Ivan continued to dote on his son Kassak. Nzech, his technically eldest son, he only ever saw three times in his life; instead, Nzech’s mother Myrika raised the young half-Karnat as a proper Raev. Despite this, Ivan never made any inclination towards who he preferred as successor. Radovan, despite his age, was still spry and energetic, and some expected that he would take the mantle if the sickness Ivan experienced never came under control. Others thought Kassak, the son that Ivan showed the most attention to, would be the natural successor. At the time, little came expected from his eldest son Nzech, still far away in the safety of Dules. In the last year of Ivan’s life in early 632 AES, it became clear that Ivan was dying. Many held their breaths for what would come after, with some expecting the fledgling Raev kingdom to collapse, while others predicted that the Karnats would leave back to their homeland. The most wise, however, knew a bloody civil war was fast approaching. The legacy of Ivan is both grandiose yet bizarre at first glance. He came to the Raev basin not as some grand unifier, but simply to open a new front in his people’s eternal conflict against the Levs. But against the odds, he defeated his opponents and seemingly brought the Raev into a unified structure. His administration, unlike would-be conquerors before him, was made up entirely of Raev natives (although his army still remained mostly of his Karnat brethren). Little did Ivan or his contemporaries know, this would be the start of one of humanity’s longest-lasting nations in global history. However, Ivan did little to centralize or bring together the Raev beyond the name of ‘kingdom’. The trade cities continued as usual, the Raev landowners squabbled and fought, and laws were lacking any central authority. Even succession was up in the air, something which would scar the generations for decades to come. The Kingdom of the Raev was not yet a kingdom in totality. It would take the centuries of work of his future successors to stabilize Ivan’s lofty conquests.
  5. ((Good luck with the revamp and here's hoping you can get Heartfire magic re-accepted if you plan on doing that. I used to play a Heartfire cleric back in Anthos on my Elendil and it was a super fun time. Regardless, glad to see this being brought back from the LotC crypt for newer audiences.))
  6. "La-Dee Ah-my-yah with Sky-Saints now." says Torugr.
  7. ((damn this is a blast from the past))
  8. "A great edict that will only strengthen the military of our great nation. I commend His Majesty and Lord Marshal Tosali for their wisdom." says Amleth.
  9. "Ug Blug!" cries the sentimental Toruug. He weeps in his igloo.
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