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Alphatia: Kingdoms Before Landfall

by Rodger Burns

Notes - This is all strictly non-canon, but IMHO useful to provide backstory for ancient dungeons, weird magic and other lore in an Alphatia-based game. It also means that Alphatia built its initial empire in opposition to more than just Yannifey tribesmen - and the successful Thyatian rebellion is that much more impressive, in turn.

Ymathra - Western Alphatia, in the hills south of the Kerothar Mountains. The Ymathran nobility were colonists/refugees from distant Taymor, but far reduced from their ancestors' days of glory - they focused mainly on enhancing their own power and status, ruling from the shadows and keeping the common folk as terorized feeding stock. In spite of this, they were a definite threat to the Alphatian newcomers - many Ymathrans were powerful necromancers, others were skilled in combat and and able to use their vampiric talents to infiltrate and assassinate. The Ymathran underclass also fought against the Alphatian interlopers with desperate strength, more afraid of their lords' punishment than any vengeance the Alphatians might visit upon them.

- Ultimate Fate: Alphatian war-wizards eventually scourged Ymathra from history, executing the noble class and subjugating the peasantry (which was still likely a kinder fate than continued Ymathran domination). Aasla (already on her Path to eventual Immortality as Alphatia) was at the forefront of the war against Ymathra - and her horror at the tactics used by the Ymathrans, as well as her disgust at the way other Alphatian wizards tried to overawe the Ymathran peasantfolk with similar displays of brutality, contributed greatly to her belief in pacifism and constructive study of magic. To the extent that the Ymathran war was a just one, it was Aasla's doing, and part of her Trial and Testimony was creating a network of enchantments and magical wards that sealed away Ymathran curse-magic and made the land lush and bountiful once more. The nexus-crystal of this ward network still exists, in a secluded valley some 250-odd miles northwest of the city of Aasla... whether any ill force would be unleashed if the crystal was damaged is unknown.

Even with the protections that Aasla created, some remnants of the Ymathrans still remain. Hidden lairs, entombed platoons of undead commandos, unused necromantic weapons and half-finished curses all lie buried within the hills of northern Haven. They might either be unleashed by accident by adventuring parties going to the wrong place at the wrong time, or on purpose by malicious or overconfident wizards who see Ymathran relics as useful weapons against their enemies.

Zaanidon - Central Alphatia, in the present-day Imperial Territories. The natives of Zaanidon (translating to 'Stormwatch' in the common tongue) were human in ancestry, but also had contact with djinni and other natives of Elemental Air and Elemental Water. Their spellcasters were few in number but generally quite capable and versatile, limited more by lack of vision and ambition than by lack of power. While the lives of the Zaanidoni were by no means ideal - they had comparatively crude skills in agriculture, metalworking and construction compared to the Alphatians, and they were threatened both by native Prime monsters and infrequent incursions of wild elemental beasts unleashed from air and water vortexes - they were steadily improving their lot and likely could have grown to dominate their home continent, if left alone.

- Ultimate Fate: Eventually, voluntary exile from the Prime. Many Alphatians saw the Zaanidoni as decent neighbors and worthy junior partners, their skills in elemental magic (especially air magic) compensating for their lack of technological development, so there wasn't an immediate war of conquest against Zaanidon. A vocal minority of Alphatian purists took the opposite view, though - they saw the Zaanidoni as tainted and subhuman, savages whose magical talents were a degenerate mockery of Alphatian skill. While this faction didn't have the clout to start an open war, they did have sufficient magical might to wage a campaign of harassment and terrorism against the Zaanidoni. Rather than accept subjugation at Alphatian hands, or launch an unwinnable war against the entire Alphatian empire to bring a few rogues to account, the Zaanidoni chose to withdraw as much of their populace as they could to refuges on the Elemental planes. Their legacy remains to this day, though, as a history of unspoken shame among Alphatian scholars and the continued existence of the Imperial Territories as an unsettled wilderness - technically speaking, still held 'in trust' for the descendants of the Zaanidoni should they ever manage to return to the Prime and conclude a peace treaty with the Alphatian Empire.

Treadan City-States - Coast of southeastern Alphatia. The Treadan cities were founded by seafarers from the east (presumably cousins of the Minaeans) and were primarily fishermen and coastal traders. They were indifferent soldiers (preferring to settle miltary conflicts with a series of duels between champions, not large-scale battles) but skilled in music, dance and art.

- Ultimate Fate: Conquered and subjugated by the Alphatians, and eventually assimilated into the larger population. Coexistence and trade was attempted for a time, but the Treadans had a cultural policy of effective 'realpolitik' that involved sabotage of any neighboring city that got too powerful and ambitious and didn't realize that the Alphatian newcomers weren't going to play by the same rules. Some of the Treadan cities fought openly, and were razed; many of the ruins left behind are thought to be haunted or cursed, and remain unreclaimed even in the modern era, nesting grounds for monsters and outlaws on the run. Some cities were conquered and begun guerilla war against the Alphatian overlords; a few of the traps and counter-traps from this conflict remain untriggered, a potential threat to anyone who runs across them. A few cities descended into desperation and resorted to demon-summoning or apocalypse-spells to fight the invaders; the Alphatians remain very careful around these locations, even in the modern day.

Firsthive - Northeastern Alphatia, in what is now northern Foresthome. In the centuries before the Alphatians arrived, this territory was a blasted near-desert - not because of the climate, but because nearly all plant and animal life was stripped clean by the local hivebrood. Thousands of colonies of hivebrood once nested here, struggling among themselves for dominion and preying on neighboring human tribes for broodling hosts, minds and skill use. They had no apparent ability or interest in communicating with any non-hivebrood being, and were constrained mainly by their own internal rivalries.

- Ultimate Fate: Exterminated by the Alphatians, after a long, bloody and ruthless conflict. The initial Alphatian explorations into the region were reckless and overconfident, and the hivebroods took their fair share of prisoners... which rapidly reduced the magical superiority normally enjoyed by the Alphatians. The denizens of Firsthive had numbers, a dispassionate willingness to accept losses and knowledge of the home ground; the Alphatians, though, had greater experience in magical warfare, airships and other military platforms, and fury over what had been done to their countrymen, and this proved to be the deciding factor. The hivebrood had no way of asking for quarter, and the Alphatians had no intention of granting it.

Even after the scourging of the last hivemothers' lairs, however, the Alphatians weren't quite sure that they'd won. The hivebrood had begun magical experimentation into growing monstrous, gargantuan-sized broodlings for use as war machines, as well as using magic to dig into and probe deep beneath the earth. It was impossible to say for sure that no hidden horrors waited below the surface, beyond the reach of Alphatian scrying spells... and so the Alphatians created a massive warding spell, anchored in living vegetation, and spread it across the entire surface of what had once been Firsthive. The vast woodlands of northern Foresthome exist not for their own sake, but as a living shield against the eventual return of the hivebrood and whatever surprises they may have cooked up in fifteen centuries of subterranean imprisonment.

The Strifelands - Western Bellisaria, centered around the upland steppes. These lands were inhabited by a semi-nomadic people, tribes practicing herding, raiding and vengeful feuding. They did build some permanent settlements (artificial hillocks with fenced-in terraces and fortified buildings, used as temples, libraries, trading grounds and monuments), but most of their life was on the hoof. The Strifelanders' magic was a mix of divine and a rather savage and superstition-ridden arcane mysticism, focusing either on mind-affecting magic (inspiring fear, lust, anger and similar base emotions) or on crude elemental summonings (earth and water, in the main - presumably because these elements were more stable and easier to control).

- Ultimate Fate: Subjugated and effectively exterminated by the Alphatians. The Strifelanders proved effectively impossible to parley with - their chieftains saw negotiation as a sign of weakness to begin with, and were cheerfully willing to break treaties at the first sign of imagined weakness. After some missteps, the Alphatians were more than willing to believe the worst of their new neighbors, and used overwhelming magical force to ensure long-term peace. While it's possible that some of the Strifelanders were spirited away to the Hollow World, this isn't likely - their Immortal patrons were mostly Entropic. (Strifelanders in the Hollow World likely would not thrive; their natural habits of animosity and vengeance-above-all would be strengthened by the Spell of Preservation, and would insure to keep their numbers small and their neighbors wary.)

The hill-forts built by the Strifelanders still remain, centuries later, though they're badly weathered and the buildings atop have fallen to ruin; some had catacombs dug underneath, though, which might house odd magical secrets, maps to ancient treasure or unknown peril, or similar prizes. More than a few of the hill-forts were exterminated through the Alphatians invoking mass-death magics upon them, or simply by isolating them from any help and letting the inhabitants starve; either fate could lead to restless spirits, which could be awakened from their long slumber through any of a number of means...