The Great War broke out between the Kingdom of Riverton and its allies and the Savakhry in ME369. It is considered to have lasted until the assassination of The Unnamedin ME453. It brought lasting ruin to both civilizations, and scorched the great plains of the continent for thousands of miles in every direction, resulting in the area now called The Barrens.
In the monarchy that had presided in Riverton since the Old Era, the eldest direct descendant of the current monarch would be the heir to the throne, regardless of gender, marriage, or generation. So although her mother lived on and though she had younger brothers, the half-elven Princess Esala Armigna became the first Queen Armigna of Riverton with the death of her father in ME331 when she was 40. She married a young Slajkran prince, Rukmajlik. The elder of their two sons, cutely named Heir Armigna, became the fourth King Armigna with her untimely death in 350. He was 15.
The Kingdom of Riverton then presumed authority over the lands east of the coastal mountains and west of the first desert trees. Since the Old Era it been culturally and politically tied to Ortognia and the western kingdoms in large part because the capital city of Riverton itself lay in the western part of the Kingdom of Riverton, some month’s foot travel east of the coastal mountains, but a half-year or more journey west of the deserts across the great plains. Heir, though, had always felt distant from his mother, and been close with his father, in large part because they were so much closer in age, so he represented himself and identified as an easterner at heart, a Slajkran. He imported eastern goods, customs, and people: he had the finest (and often most peculiar) eastern foods prepared; he hosted grand celebrations of eastern holidays at the palace; he surrounded himself with eastern advisers and confidantes, even gathering a de facto harem of eastern women, a custom loathed in the west.
Inevitably, Armigna IV alienated many of the established advisers and ancillary members of the court from his mother’s reign, not to mention a host of powerful aristocrats. Like nearly all Rivertonians, these people had been raised with the belief system of the west, and most were not interested in changing their ways so dramatically to suit the upstart monarch. His public demeanor was unresponsive and dismissive, but those who knew Heir personally would often attest to his general humility and generosity—it was his shyness and social discomfort, they said, that led to his reputation as heartless and cold. Still, unease was the atmosphere at the Riverton court and it spread through the city, matched by the growing number of outspoken opponents, even sworn enemies, of the crown.
Thinking the young king disconnected from his own people, naive, and therefore manipulable, Ral, the Savakh of the time sought to marry his daughter, Leikw, to Heir, and via her assume some phantom power over Riverton, expanding his influence and wealth. Leikw was sent West with a luxuriant caravan of attendants and servants and goods to woo the king. Her youth and beauty along with the riches of the East laid out for him seemed to have the desired effect on Heir, and their courtship was heated.
A coalition opposed to Armigna had formed, of mostly aristocrats but even a few of the King’s inner circle of advisers. Infuriated further by what was now seen as a full eastern invasion of their homeland, they schemed to humiliate the King and the Slajkrans. While Heir was out on a several-day hunting expedition, they used their influence within the palace and bribed a few already disillusioned guards to gain access to the Princess. She was forcibly dragged from her quarters, stripped naked in the public square before the palace, and gang raped by members of the militia friendly to the coalition. She was left there, shamed and battered, and later her body was found beaten to death on the forested slope of Flag Hill.
There was no concrete evidence that the murder was arranged by the coalition, but the rape alone would have been enough to send the young king into a rage. Known members of the coalition were rounded up and publicly flayed to death. Having learned the hard way about disloyalty, Armigna brought those he knew were loyal to him closer, into his utmost confidence, while everyone else was assumed a possible enemy. Perhaps grown too innocent after so many generations of peace and prosperity, the people of Riverton voiced their protests to the newly tyrannical monarch, and their voices were brutally silence. Curfews and martial law were implemented.
Meanwhile, members of Leikw’s entourage had fled the city, traveling full speed back to Slajkra with the news. Stricken with grief and anger, the Savakh mustered his armies immediately. For centuries, magical channels of communication between the royal houses of Riverton and Slajkra had been open. King Armigna had neglected to contact the Savakh, which in the latter’s mind could only mean this act was a deliberate insult, and, perpetrated against his own daughter, an act of war.
Riverton had barely any warning before the armies of Slajkra were past the kingdom’s border, their exotic machines of war and advanced tactics burning a trail of casualties and massive damages through the plains towns of the Eastern part of the kingdom. The enemy assault was enough to unite most of the people behind Armigna, though, and the military rallied and met the Slajkrans at Berryton Fields, the first great battle of the war. With their far superior magical knowledge and ability, the Westerners rained hellfire on their enemies and shook their morale. The Easterners retreated, and the Westerners pursued, for months. The seasoned warriors of the East were tough, their leaders clever, and every time they met in battle the Westerners sustained more casualties, but it was impossible for the easterners to gain ground against their enemy’s superior magics.
The Berryton Campaign ended in a stalemate at Cladge when Eastern reinforcements arrived, and both sides were ordered to stand their ground. Armigna had contacted the Savakh to explain the grave misunderstanding, and peace talks were in progress. They were quickly interrupted when word reached Slajkra of another Rivertonian force making its way stealthily East through the Southern part of the kingdom, a simple precaution taken by Armigna, who genuinely wanted to end the war quickly. His explanations fell on deaf ears, though, and hostilities were renewed on both the Northern and Southern fronts, and the seemingly endless start, stop, and start again – which would come to define the war – had begun.
Armigna, the sheer size of the Slajkran armies overwhelming him, sought and was granted massive military aid from Ortognia and the Western kingdoms. The easterners were by habit military innovators, and constantly found new ways to bedevil their enemies on the plains and at home, developing a sophisticated network of spies. In 421, Armigna IV passed away in his bedroom, which, since his health had been failing for years, doubled as a war room. He had spent the second half of his life at war with the country he had spent the first half of his life developing a deep love for. To his dying day, he constantly tried to renew the peace talks, and always was foiled.
During the long war, Heir had married Rinala, and they had three children. The eldest was Semble Armigna, who was crowned king. Though he had grudgingly admired his father, Semble had been chief among those undermining his efforts at peace for years. A child born in the middle of a war that still persisted, it was all he’d ever known. He had served as an officer in the Riverton army, and later as a principle among Heir’s military advisers. He had seen his own ranks infiltrated, his own men slaughtered dishonorably, and he loathed Slajkra and all it stood for.
Within a few years of the beginning of Armigna V’s reign and the accompanying redoubling of war efforts, there were whisperings of a new power in the East also. Some said he was a cleric of some ancient chaos god. Many claimed he was not human at all, but a powerful evil fey lord, or a conniving devil from the ninth hell, assuming human form for some nefarious purpose. Whoever he was, he had some otherworldly power, and in Slajkra, after decades of battle against the wizards of the west, the old ways of near religious fear and awe of magic power had taken root again. The Unnamed had used that to manipulate his way into the role of their leader, though he rejected the term Savakh.
New magics found their way to the battlefields, employed by the Slajkran forces, though often seeming barely controlled. They were darker magics the Rivertonian wizards feared or loathed. Creatures that only planar scholars could identify began to appear, seeming to wreak nearly as much havoc on the Eastern forces that summoned them. The many that survived wandered away from battle to roam the land, dripping their acidic blood and foul other-worldly offal. Even most of those who had been stubborn in trying to maintain their lives and homes on the great plains in spite of the war all around packed up and fled for Riverton or the coasts. Those few that stayed turned strange and wild, seeing their idyllic homeland transformed into a land scorched by war and ravaged by aberrant creatures never before imagined.
Citizens in the West and the East all loathed the war by now, but fear kept them silent. Conscription was the norm in the East, and in Riverton military custom had it that all soldiers were expected to serve for life. Desertions were massive on both sides, and Ortognia had withdrawn all but token military aid, but Armigna V knew nothing of life but war, and The Unnamed clearly had some stranger purpose, so battle, such as it was, raged on.
An independant group calling themselves The Aggregate formed in Riverton, whose stated purpose was to find a way to defeat The Unnamed. This made it easy for them to operate under Armigna V’s warmongering nose (though at this point there was so little semblance of order in Riverton it probably wouldn’t have mattered), but their real mission was to find a way, any way, to put an end to the war. They gathered powerful, like-minded people to their cause.
Eventually, six champions of the Aggregate set out for Slajkra, and though little is known of their journey, they returned over a year later, in 453, exhausted and scarred but triumphant. They bore a bloody mass in a magically sealed container which they claimed was the testicles (yes, testicles) of The Unnamed himself, and that this somehow made him (ahem) impotent. They had tales to tell of how the Slajkran people were as weary of the war as anyone and were delighted to be rid of the mysterious tyrannical leader. The war was over! They had relayed the news to every squadron and platoon from either side they encountered on their journey home, and the men and women had joyously turned their thoughts toward home and hearth.
But they had no one to tell this tale to. In their absence the other members of the Aggregate had unseated the childless Semble from the throne entirely. With no heir, the few royal counselors remaining vied with each other for power, but the public would not recognize their authority, nor the city guard answer to them. The guard dissolved, and Riverton was ungoverned. Commerce died. The hungry and the greedy looted what could be looted, then turned to petty thievery. Many of the old members of the Aggregate themselves had turned thuggish and bullied their way around town.