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History of Littonia

by Geoff Gander

Here is an historical synopsis of the land of Littonia:


For many people, Norwold is considered the utmost border of civilisation, beyond which only the wilds of northern Brun dominate. This is not so, for along the northeastern border of Norwold, far beyond the realms of the Known World, lies a small nation of brave people - Littonia.

Much of the history of the Littonians is lost in the depths of time; few among these people know the full story, dating their own culture to the time of Karlis, the Unifier, and afterwards. In truth, the people who would populate the land of Littonia arose some 4,200 years ago, on the continent of Skothar. They were the last remnants of the Valemen, a fair people who had been all but obliterated by the fearsome Afridhi centuries before - the first conquests of that warlike people. They fled their homeland towards the southwest, and built tiny villages along the western reaches on Thonia. There they remained for two centuries, until the time of the Great Rain of Fire.

Many Valefolk died in the disaster, and only the strongest were able to flee to their ships and sail to what would become Alphatia. It was a rich land, and the Valefolk settled along its eastern coasts. In less than three generations, though, the fair-skinned indigenous people, who called themselves the Yanifey, drove out the Valefolk. They resented the intrusions of these people upon their way of life, and were unwilling to share their land with anyone. Thus the Valefolk were driven from their homes only a century after they arrived to these shores. For years they were harried across the continent, until they arrived at the western shores, from which they sailed to what is now Norwold, in the region called the Great Bay.

At this time it was still a frigid land, but some areas of the shorelines were habitable. The Valefolk eked out a living along these rugged shores, forgetting much of their culture as they fell into a long dark age. Centuries passed, and the Valefolk spread as the climate warmed. Much of their people migrated north of the Great Bay, to fertile plains and light forests along the coast that afforded them some measure of prosperity. The place they called their home was centred around a river that branched northeast from the mighty Landsplit River - the shallow Gaudava River. Life was hard, and short, but it was infinitely better than before. In the south, Valefolk built their homesteads as far as the coasts of the modern Heldannic Territories.

The Valefolk would not be alone for long; soon after the southernmost homesteads had been built, a tall warlike people arrived from over the eastern seas. They called themselves the Antalians, and they pushed forth the Valefolk. Within decades, all Valefolk communities south of the Great Bay had been destroyed, their inhabitants either killed of driven forth. North of the Great Bay, a new identity arose among the Valefolk. Since coming to this new land, much of their old culture had been forgotten, as new beliefs, new traditions, and a new language developed. The northern Valefolk began to call themselves the Litoniesu, and their land Litonija.

Despite this new identity, the Littonians were a fragmented people. Although many Littonians of the day recognised common bonds of language and religion, most swore allegiance to their clan chieftains. As a result, the Littonians spent as much time fighting each other as they did the northward- moving Antalians. For decades the Antalians surged northwards, clashing with the emerging Littonians. These folk were never defeated, though, for there always came among them one chieftain who would lead all the others to victory over the Antalians, and who would often fall into obscurity afterwards. This cycle of unity and disunity could have continued forever, were it not for the Frost Giants of Frosthaven.

Roughly 3,000 years ago, a vast horde of Frost Giants, led by the fearsome Ulf One-Eye, surged southwards from their island home, reaving and destroying as they went. Beforehand the giants had troubled only the northernmost communities, where the remnants of those Valefolk who had lived south of the Great Bay now lived. Now, the giants ventured forth to conquer. They long coveted the richer lands of the Landsplit and Gaudava rivers, and saw the inhabitants as fitting slaves to their work for them. They stormed in from the north, and quickly overwhelmed the disunited Littonians one clan at a time. Within five years the entire region north of the Great Bay was under Ulf's rule. He named his realm Nordenheim.

Ulf was a cruel ruler. He routinely had Littonians who showed any form of resistance brutally tortured, often in front of their families. Many Littonians were tied to their farms, forbidden to leave under pain of death, and forced to give away most of their harvests to their overlords, who grew decadent from their easy life. Whenever there was to be a great celebration among the giants, Ulf would order the most able-bodied slaves to fight in arenas for the amusement of their masters. The greatest horror inflicted upon the Littonians was the construction of Ulf's great citadel, Høgborg. Seven years were spent building the colossal structure, all of which was done by slave labour. So many died in building the structure, and in the giants' other depredations, that the Littonians began to decline in number. Were it not for the rise of Namejs the Leader, all hope may have been lost for the Littonians.

The man who would become Namejs the Leader was a landowner of some reputation, and a clan leader. Namejs laboured hard under the rule of Ulf's giants, and saw his tremendous pains rewarded by the arbitrary death of his family. One of the locals, in an attempt to curry favour with the giants, reported that Namejs was trying to incite a rebellion. Though this was not true, the giants tore apart his home, and forced him to watch the deaths of his wife and children. Broken over such a great loss, he vowed to have his vengeance upon the overlords who caused both him and his people so much suffering. Not long afterwards, he attacked a lone Frost Giant in a rage, and managed to kill him with a well-placed blow to the head while his opponent was down. He was surprised at his act, as were a small gathering of Littonians who happened to witness the deed. Gaining heart from this act, he then assembled a band of freedom fighters and melted into the surrounding hills and woods.

The next years were spent fighting a guerrilla campaign against the giants. Well-armed bands led by Namejs would leap out of forests, swamps, and other places of concealment to attack and kill unsuspecting giant warriors. As soon as any organised resistance could be brought to bear, the rebels melted back into the wilderness. Many years passed, and Ulf's warriors could not locate Namejs' stronghold, nor could they capture any of his men. Soon enough, tales of Namejs' deeds spread across Nordenheim, until many slaves rose up against their masters, killing them in any way possible. The greatest battle took place at the coastal village of Gaudavpils, which spanned the Gaudava River where it entered the eastern seas. Many giants died at that battle, and news of this resounding victory spread like wildfire. Before long, Namejs had assembled a great host of rebels, who then stormed Høgborg and killed Ulf. They then destroyed the citadel, thus destroying the testament to their oppression. Their leader dead and their power broken, the remaining giants fled Nordenheim for their homes in Frosthaven, abandoning their dreams of empire. Namejs was then made the first king of Littonia, in recognition for his deeds.

Namejs ruled wisely, but reluctantly. He was not a king at heart, and would have rather kept the peace within his own clan hall. His rule lasted many years, and he presided over a period of great unity and peace. His sons did not have his personal charisma, or his will to keep the peace for all Littonians. As the decades passed, the ruling line of Littonia grew weak, and the people began to identify more with their own clans and clan leaders once more. The Littonians expanded south to the Great Bay once more - the Antalians having been eliminated as a major threat during the invasion of Loark's horde centuries before. All lands north of the Great Bay and east of the Icereach Mountains were theirs. Only the lands around the Gaudava River, and immediately to the north, were thickly settled. The remaining lands were dotted with homesteads and farms, as much of the land was too poor for intensive farming.

So Littonia remained a kingdom in name only for many years. The clan leaders paid lip service to the king, and did what they pleased in their own lands - even warring amongst themselves. The realm was further weakened by the resentment felt by the Lietuvas towards the dominant Litoniesu. Descended from those Valefolk who were driven north by the Antalians centuries before, the Lietuvas had developed a distinctive dialect of the Littonian language, and had a slightly different outlook on life. They settled north of the Gaudava River, and kept largely to themselves. They saw themselves living in a land designed by Litoniesu, for Litoniesu. So, almost 200 years after the death of Namejs the Leader, the Lietuvas declared their lands independent of Littonia, thus creating the Realm of Lietuvos.

This began years of war between both peoples, with neither gaining the upper hand. As more people were taken off of their farms to fight their neighbours, more and more fields grew fallow, and villages began to be abandoned. The bloodletting continued for some 40 years, off and on, and in the end both sides were so weakened that the Realm of Lietuvos collapsed into anarchy, and what remained of Littonia fragmented even further. Thus began another long dark age for the Littonians, in which few left their homes or clan holdings, and roving goblinoids advanced from the southwest.

The giants of Frosthaven returned several times over the next centuries, seeing that the nation forged by the hated Namejs had now collapsed into obscurity. With the giants raiding in the north, and goblinoids looting and burning in the south, times were grim for the Littonians, indeed. Then, a new leader was born.

About 1100 years ago, a boy named Karlis was born in the Littonian village of Nevmala. A strong lad, he quickly grew into a warrior of considerable strength, and, as the eldest son of the local lord, soon became the ruler of Nevmala and the surrounding lands. One night, he dreamed of Namejs at his greatest battle, the Battle of Gaudavpils. He watched the combatants fight, and after it was over he saw Namejs come to him, and ask him to rebuild Littonia in its hour of need. Karlis awoke, and, knowing what had to be done if his people were to survive, he raised an army in his dominion, and marched upon his neighbours. Over the next 11 years, his armies spread throughout the various petty fiefdoms of what was once Littonia, uniting his people by diplomacy and by the sword. The final battle was fought only six years before his death, at the Lietuvan town of Siaiulai, where the mightiest Lietuvan lord was brought low before Karlis' armies.

Though Karlis lived only six years after the reunification of Littonia, he has been revered ever after as Karlis the Unifier. To this day, many Littonians speak his name with awe. Unlike Namejs, Karlis left behind a strong line of succession, filled with kings and queens who wanted to keep their nation strong. It was not long afterwards that the new kingdom of Littonia faced its first great challenge.

Scarcely seven years into the reign of Uldis, Karlis' eldest son, a strange people had come out of the west, from over the Icereach Range. They called themselves the Saamari, a bold people who were fleeing their ancient homeland in search of refuge. They crossed the mountains and settled amidst the grasslands and sparse forests in the western reaches of Littonia. Many Littonian farmers were crowded out of their lands as thousands of Saamari streamed from the mountains and built their villages. Word spread to Gaudavpils, which had since become a town of considerable size, where Uldis ruled his people. Hearing of what was happening, he sent his armies west to reclaim the lands that were lost.

Many battles were fought over the ensuing years. Littonian raised arms against Saamari, as villages burned and borders shifted. The Saamari were too numerous, though, and ultimately the western reaches were lost to the newcomers, who called their land Kaarjala. Maris, the successor to Uldis after the former died in battle, had no wish to continue a fruitless war when there were still numerous enemies on all sides. The Heldannic folk to the south raided the southern Littonian settlements from time to time, just as the north was threatened by the giants of Frosthaven. Thus, in the first year of his reign, Maris appealed to the leader of the Saamari to meet with him in the town of Valmiera to discuss terms of peace. For a week they negotiated, until the Treaty of Valmiera was drafted and signed. Under the treaty's terms, the western lands would belong to the Saamari forevermore, and all lands east of the Gaudava river system would belong to Littonia. Each nation vowed never to attack the other, and in fact to render aid to the other when requested.

Having achieved peace in the west, Maris turned his attention north and south, where he constructed lines of simple towers to hold back those who would do Littonia harm. Those defences were tested over time. On several occasions the denizens of Frosthaven swept from the north in search of easy plunder, and all too often found it in Littonia. Though many were turned back by the defences along the northern border, some always managed to break through and wreak havoc. On one occasion the towns of Valmiera and Nevmala were destroyed by the giants, who were then beaten back only with the aid of the Kaarjalans. Likewise, the Heldannic peoples ranged free along the southern frontiers, though this was curtailed sharply after the establishment of Alphatian colonies to the south. Littonia was quick to make peace with the Alphatians, and has benefited from generally good relations with the dominions of Norwold ever since, though this happened far more recently.

About 400 years ago, a second great migration took place. Thousands of people, who called themselves the Vaarana, and who were not unlike the Saamari, came up over the Icereach Range. They brought with them tales of woe, of great goblinoid hordes on the march. The rulers of Kaarjala and Littonia conferred soon afterwards, and determined that defences must be prepared for the onslaught that was sure to come. Alliances were struck with the elves and halflings living to the south. Not ten years after the Vaarana came over the mountains did a great horde of trolls, ogres, goblins, orcs, and Frost Giants storm over the Icereach Range. For many years both forces shed blood, and it seemed the entire north would be destroyed. Such would have happened, were it not for the arrival of the ancient heroes of Kaarjala, and of Namejs himself! Under the guidance of these legendary heroes, and with the aid of halfling stealth and elven magic, the Kaarjalans, Vaarana, and the Littonians were able to push the enemy back over the mountains, from which they have not issued since.

Since that time, Littonia has become a true nation in its own right. Its ships ply the northern seas, venturing to places such as Qeodhar, Norwold, the Northern Reaches, and mainland Alphatia, trading Littonian and Kaarjalan goods for those items the two nations cannot otherwise get. Its borders are secure on all sides, and its people are proud of their history and culture. With the legacy of Namejs well-established, Littonia seems poised for prosperity, though it still lives under the shadow of Frosthaven.