The Downfall of the Free Peoples
From the annals of the Church of Pelor…
It is told that the downfall of the Free Peoples began in one of the ancient cities of the North, some 460 years ago. It was the Year of the Thousand Enemies, and a great frost had covered the lands for months, stretching into late spring.
Disputes between cities had marred the winter, petty squabbles about trade routes and tax and duty on imports and exports had escalated to the point that some of the cities had ceased diplomatic relations with one another. The long, harsh winter had taken its toll on the peoples’ patience.
Before the first meltings of the frost and ice surrounding the great Northern city began, a goblinoid horde attacked. Such attacks were increasingly common in these times, with the goblinoids multiplying through the summer and autumn, and then using their stores of food during the winter. When spring was near, the attacks began, almost an annual event.
Militia in the cities were well drilled, well supplied, and confident in their ability. Such attacks from the hordes began in small waves, ambushing and raiding the trade caravans on the Northern routes between the coast in the West along the mountains to the North. Such raids were easy to repel with the sturdy horses of the North and trained militia, but were hard to predict and counter.
As the goblinoids’ confidence increased with their small victories, they would begin to attack the city walls themselves. At these times the cities would band together and send reinforcements along the trade routes to the beleagured city to repel the invaders. Although the goblinoids threw themselves against the walls time after time, with the combined might of two or three groups of militia, they were repelled again and again until their numbers dwindled so much they skulked back into the mountains until they were strong enough to attempt war again.
However, in this fateful year, when the ancient city came under siege, no help was forthcoming from the other cities. Trade caravans dwindled and no militia were sent to assist. The leaders of the other cities thought that their neighbour would be able to repel the goblinoid horde this year, but be sorely hurt. They would have to broker a new trade deal, one less favourable – they would have no bargaining chips if the will of the city was broken.
The long cold winter had been good to the goblinoids, though, with fell beasts coming from the advancing ice swelling their numbers. The winter had taken its toll on the defenders, as well, with many of their horses not making it through the cold months, and crops perishing in the frost. As the trade caravans were attacked, the people did not have enough spare horses to prevent many of the attacks and the trade routes became blocked – held by the goblinoids.
As the first swarm of the horde advanced against the city it was obvious to those defending the walls that they needed help. Despite calls for reinforcements, help never came, the other cities confident in their arrogance that the city would stand and their new deal could be brokered.
Before the frost had stopped forming on the fields the city fell in flames.
When the news reached the neighbouring cities the shock and outcry from the common populace was loud and angry. How could this have happened? Many immediately called for a united army, a force sufficient to track down and crush the goblinoid horde and reclaim the ruined city. Others, however, fell into continued bickering, pointing the finger as to who was to blame for the trade disputes, who did not answer the call for help, who let the city fall.
As winter turned to spring, and the meltwaters swelled rivers making the movements of armies difficult, news came that a second city had fallen to the horde.
Even with this dire news, two cities ransacked by the horde, it was widely believed that the goblinoids would fall into infighting, the clans jostling for power, that would break them up and force them to retreat into the mountains. The cities could then be retaken and rebuilt.
Each city turned to themselves, protecting their own borders and own interests. No group looked to the entire lands. With the success of the goblinoid horde, and their continued growth in numbers, other beasts were displaced from their homes. News came from the eastward trade routes of trolls rising from the swamps and destroying villages. From the south came tales of disease and pestilence spreading, clerics reporting evil forces taking advantage. From the west news of undead rising.
Throughout the rest of the year the chain of misadventure continued. Small events, often considered insignificant, not even related to one another, happened to coincide. Their cumulative effects started to snowball across the lands. The two fallen cities to the North were never retaken, their blackened ruins gradually becoming infested with beasts, ghouls, and worse.
By the Year of the Infamous Wizard, the northern trade route had been all but closed. Communication between widely separated cities became non-existent, even that between two neighbours became more difficult.
Wise mages, communicating freely amongst themselves with magic, tried to warn their lords about what they could see happening, the pattern that was forming. Each city became a city-state, concerned only with the land immediately around them, and no thought for their neighbour.
A deadly tide of indifference and isolation fell upon the world.
In the Year of the Beardless Dwarf the Elves began to move westwards, towards vast expanses of forests between the cities. However, they found creatures already there, infesting and desecrating the forests, forcing the Elves to flee ever further westward. The Dwarves withdrew into their deep holds in the mountains, but found creatures bubbling up from the depths.
Over the course of the next few years, the people fared little better. In the Year of the Unblinking Eye a vast drought in the summer ruined crops across the West. During the Year of the Awakening Treant the Elves finally left the forests of the lands and headed out to the sea to the West, settling on a group of islands lush with forest.
Although a number of smaller cities in the South attempted to band together during the Year of the Haughty Friend, political intrigue and lust for power broke up their friendship and a number of them fell in attacks between each other.
The Year of the Killing Ice brought the worst winter ever remembered, with barely a summer to speak of in the North. Crops and livestock were devastated, and thousands died of cold. In the Year of the Corrie Fist city state attacked city state, in desperation with dwindling food stocks.
Over these years, one by one, the city states fell. Some to hordes of beasts and monsters, some to bandits, others to plagues of undead. Some fell to powerful dark warlords, liches or priests who seized the opportunity to spread their own brand of ruin. Some fell as they warred amongst each other.
As spring came in the Year of Unleashed Fears the decision was taken by the remaining bands of lords, militia, peoples and refugees to follow the Elves across the sea to the west to a group of islands.
By the time this retreat was ordered, all aspects of the lands were in ruins.