The Mountains of Morpheus
History and Politics in Drau Mura
The people of Drau Mura are riven by ethnicity, language, race, faith, and tradition. The region has always known war, banditry, and revolt, born out of greed, ambition, the hope of freedom, and the fear of being slain for those same reasons.
In Recent Years …
The situation among the kingdom of Kala Anar and two of the Sibarii city-states, Tsinnamarch and Strigis, is of specific interest to this campaign. Nearly a decade of small-scale skirmishing, banditry, assassination, and trade disputes escalated into a year’s worth of battles, which in turn culminated in the invasion and conquest of both city-states by the greater kingdom. This conflict is now sometimes referred to as the Wheat-Harvest War, as the first outbursts of major conflict began shortly after harvest celebrations in the Strigis countryside. (Some, especially those in Kala Anar, don’t deign to call the year of fighting a “real” war — certainly the region has seen longer and larger-scale fighting in past years. Many Azna use the name with a resentful irony, as Kala Anar’s soldiers burned the Tsinnamarch and Strigis areas’ crops in an attempt to starve them into submission.)
Generally, it is the Sibarii city-states’ rulers who supported banditry and theft in Kala Alar, while Kala Anar had forcibly taxed border villages and towns in exchange for protection. Outside parties were also involved: Mercenaries from the Tesia predominantly fought for Kala Anar. The five other Sibarii, and a few dwarven nobles, lent some support to Tsinnamarch and Strigis — whether they could have done more is not in question, but whether they should have provokes bitter tavern arguments.
For about two months at this point have both Tsinnamarch and Strigis been formally annexed by Kala Anar, which has revised its royal maps to include new, eastern territory stretching into the Mountains of Morpheus. The rulers of Kala Anar claim that, given the cities’ harassment of the kingdom’s merchants and travelers, as well as the brigandry encroaching into their kingdom, the conquest was more than justified. Most of the defeated see it as a matter of aggression and greed. Towards the end of the conflict, many Azna families began to see the current outcome as inevitable, and collaborated with Kala Anar forces, for their own gain and to (at least in their eyes) to reach peace more swiftly. The divide between Azna “loyalists” who resist (if only in thought and wish) the conquest, and Azna “sympathizers” who cooperate with the new authorities, is recent but profound.
Villages have been put to the torch; druids and priests have been executed; children have sworn oaths to the God of War to avenge the fallen. Most notably, as the conflicts ended, many people from the Sibarii, usually former soldiers, have become bandits, intermittently striking against their conquerors in the name of the Azna people — or for more personal reasons, like greed and retribution. Though bandits are certainly a minority among the area across Tsinnamarch and Strigis, they are often well-organized and receive popular support. Meanwhile, the occupying Kala Anar forces struggle to manage the violence, ordinary folk debate where their loyalties should lie, and the weak huddle in dread as winter approaches, with much of the year’s food surplus consumed or burned.
The social and legal consequences of the Wheat-Harvest War have yet to be fully decided by the ruling powers. Specifically, it is unclear whether the conquered Azna will be treated by the kingdom as belonging to the Soil-born caste, or as a distinct legal group. If the former decision is made and enforced, it would mean that the vast majority of Azna under Kala Anar rule would be prohibited from practicing magic, and face various restrictions on profession, marriage, and trade.
It is a violent and uncertain time. But as they say in Drau Mura, times are always violent and uncertain. With the large-scale battles finished, travelers from other lands make their way to the region once again — to trade, to find work, and to dream in the Mountains of Morpheus.
Many Years Ago …
Although it hardly counts as ancient history, the Crying War, which ended 177 years ago, provides a common reference point for most of the peoples in Drau Mura. Whether by agreement or force, many of the major borders drawn after the war remain to this day. Over the course of the war, an intrepid Azna ruler, Kasha Sword-Eye, conquered much of the region, eventually uniting several former fiefdoms under a few decades of peace. Her kingdom eventually fragmented into what are now the Sibarii, the city-states of the Federation of the Tesia, and portions of the Arius Kingdoms, Kala Anar, and dwarven lands. The Azna see this period as a time when their people enjoyed a solidarity that they’ve never quite been able to recapture (though not for lack of trying). The Arius Kingdoms, Kala Anar, the Eastern Tribes, and the dwarven lands see it as a time of bravely resisting a brutal conqueror, eventually rising from the ashes stronger than ever. The histories of the Tesia tell the war as a time of crisis and opportunity, from which new, ambitious rulers slowly and shrewdly made their city-states prosperous through trade.
Although numerous wars and intrigues have come and passed since the Crying War, the objects of those conflicts have often remained the same time. Drau Mura’s various polities — the Sibarii, the Arius kingdoms, Kala Anar, the Federation of the Tesia, the Eastern Tribes, as well as clans of dwarves and frost giants to the north — vie over territory, the right to collect rent from peasants, and resources in the forested and mountainous wilderness. At other times, conflicts are less political, and driven by monsters or a supernatural threat. Some of the major events in Drau Mura after the Crying War are:
- The Two Years of Pestilence (14-16 years after the Crying War): Hordes of the undead rise to slay and devour the living. Kasha Sword-Eye commissions several orders of clerics and paladins to lead the fight against them. Some of the undead meet their demise, but others return to the Ghast Fens to rest (apparently of their own volition).
- First War of the Moors (39-52 years after the Crying War): Some years after Kasha Sword-Eye’s death, her predominantly Azna domains finally split into two kingdoms, beginning a bloody 13-year-long war that ends in a detente.
- Arrival of Vanir (about 50 years A.C.W.): Half-elves, the Vanir, arrive in Drau Mura in greater numbers, mostly through Mercadia.
- War of the Forges (55-61 years A.C.W.): Invading dwarves fight the Azna-dominated Torbrera’s Forge for control of the city-state. Torbrera’s Forge is ruled by a dwarven king until 145 years A.C.W. (coinciding with the late side of the Great Dwarven Plagues), when a coalition of Azna humans and dwarves take power.
- Paladins’ War (60-68 years A.C.W.): Ashoumite paladins set out to defend peasants from raiders, eventually fighting several of the Eastern Tribes, then provoking a decade of war between the Eastern Tribes and Wintergleam, Cayellia, and Tsinnamarch.
- Arhus-Rho-Upa’s Death (65 years A.C.W.): The ancient dragon Arhus-Rho-Upa dies in the mountains west of Ka Toshah. Factions among the dwarves, Kala Anar, and the Azna compete to acquire its corpse and discover its lair. Surrounding woodlands fill with poisonous fog, scattering several druidic sects.
- Second War of the Moors (75-92 years A.C.W.): Further infighting and popular revolt among the Sibarii result in their fragmentation. The war’s end marks the point when the Sibarii become seven independent city-states.
- Great Dwarven Plagues (about 90-150 years A.C.W.): Disease decimates numerous dwarven settlements, including nearly all of the denizens of Koreth’s Staircase. Humans move into many of these settlements.
- Summer of Nightmares (91 years A.C.W.): People living in (relative) proximity to the Mountains of Morpheus suffer about half a year of frantic nightmares; Acantha, Tsinnamarch, Strigis, and surrounding villages are all badly affected. Many go mad, becoming Malkavians. The following winter, some of the Eastern Tribes temporarily seize control of these areas.
- Plague of Mephits (about 110-115 years A.C.W.): From the ocean and mountains, mephits appear en masse, looting and causing mayhem throughout the Arius Kingdoms.
- Third War of the Moors (116-117 years A.C.W.): Kala Anar conquers Amadeus, Othermont, and (briefly) Torbrera’s Forge, installing puppet princes. Various rag-tag armies, bandits, and adventurers eventually overthrow these regimes, though it takes the better part of 20 years.
- Treaty of Tyrrenhos’s Gate (135 years A.C.W.): Despite all manner of mysterious interference, a treaty formally allies Drau Mura’s southeastern city-states into the Federation of the Tesia.
- Shaha-Ka-Kairos’s Flight (141-143 years A.C.W.): The fearsome dragon Shaha-Ka-Kairos causes great destruction across Drau Mura. It eventually leaves for the Mountains of Morpheus to sleep, and has not been seen since.
- Civil War in Kala Anar (143-145 years A.C.W.): Soil-born peasants’ revolts culminate in their killing Monarch Rasini II. Sky-born aristocrats mobilize soldiers and mercenaries to quell the violence. After two years of bloodshed and intrigue over the monarchy, a powerful Sky-born sorcerer takes the throne, relaxing certain caste restrictions and imposing limits on taxation and rent.
- Stavtas’s Journey (160 years A.C.W.): Stavtas, a warlord of the Vorroros tribe in eastern Drau Mura, leads many warriors from the Eastern Tribes in a campaign of plunder across Drau Mura, kiling a few princes and kings along the way, ending when he burns half of Whitesteed and returns home. Some alliances forged by panicked rulers exist to this day.
- Conquest of Tyrrenhos’s Gate (171 years A.C.W.): Lady Morgana, chief of the Ravenna tribe, conquers Tyrrenhos’s Gate, ruling it to this day. Her attempts to abolish worship of Talos remain unsuccessful. Tyrrenhos’s Gate continues to belong to the Federation of the Tesia, at least in name.
- Coronation of Monarch Valentini IV (174 years A.C.W.): The reign of the current Monarch of Kala Anar begins.
- Present Year (177 years A.C.W.): Several prominent merchants in Othermont assassinated; agents from the Federation of the Tesia blamed. Two Eastern Tribes, the Cold Sun and the Brixia, negotiate peace after killing of a chieftain’s son. Arius kings accused of persecuting druids. Talos worship slays many in Mercadia and Mordai’s Landing. Mephits trouble Anar Avah. Mob in Amadeus kills a dozen warlocks. Merchants from dwarven kingdoms attacked in the Sibarii. Wheat-Harvest War ends when Kala Anar conquers Tsinnamarch and Strigis. Banditry intensifies in central Drau Mura.