The nation of Sebre (located in mid-northern Galanath) had long traditionally been a nation of druids, dedicated to the gods of plants and animals, and of the elements. Sebre trained druids to support mankind and elvenkind, and trained rangers to protect the borders of the known world. The nation also served as a peaceful retreat from the vices of the various churches, with its rich hot springs, beautiful valleys, and abundant plant and animal life year-round.
A young slate human named Avard Trueman began a fateful rise to power in -20 Avard (9218 Absolute, or 2140 Mauslin by the calendars of that day), by entering into the druidic circles under the name of Avard Karatika. He rose through the ranks fairly quickly, absorbing a great deal of information about not just his own job, but about the jobs and abilities of all the peoples he worked with. Avard proved himself a capable politician, with a wisdom beyond his years, and an iron resolve to balance issues fairly and justly, between mankind, nature, and the elements.
After twenty years in power, Avard Karatika had secured enough political power to take control of the entire druidic circle of Sebre. He named himself 'heirophant', and began maneuvering Sebre and its peoples into affairs of the entire political world.
One of Sebre's neighbors, Wendt (modern-day Loraxi), feeling threatened by a united nation, sought security from the druidic nation by kidnapping and forcibly marrying one of Avard's daughters to the nation's prince. Avard and all of Sebre brought Wendt to its knees, unleashing nature and the elements upon an army geared for conventional tactics and strategy. The people of Wendt were won over by charismatic rangers, and the protection of havestai, or harvest druids. With its army battered, and its people in revolt, Wendt's leaders quickly capitulated – adding that nation to Avard's power, and firmly establishing the beginnings of the then-called Sebre Alliance.
An entire generation of grew up under the watchful eye of Avard's people, and it was beginning to be apparent that Avard Karatika was not only wise and just, but immortal, as well. The people of Wendt and Sebre began to feel the sting of raiders out of a nearby nation, in 17 Avard. The Heirophant used as much political pressure as he could, but many other nations were against the Sebre Alliance. The raiders continued to attack, until the Heirophant felt he had no choice but to declare war. The raiders' nation moved to defend them, and activated several secret alliances with other nations near to the Sebre Alliance, and hostile to it's wealth and power.
By 18 Avard, the rangers and druids of the Sebre Alliance had welded four more nations onto the Sebre Alliance, and Avard Karatika began to be a name of importance in the western world.
Thereafter, the six-nation alliance began to be known as the Karatikan Alliance, as other nations began to deal considerably more peacefully with Avard Karatika. Many nations began to realize that they did not need to lose their national identity by joining the alliance, and the benefits were tremendous – havestai that increased food production by three times normal, and chidrei, or Sebre rangers, that protected their borders from one another. Real international trade began, and the Karatikan Alliance actually crafted national identities where there had been none, before.
By 44 Avard, the Karatikan Alliance was nearly 8 nations strong. It was in that year that the modern calendar was created, using as the year 0 the date Avard Karatika entitled himself 'heirophant'.
Because of the Karatikan Alliance's strong border patrols and rich farmlands, it had healthier, richer people than its neighbors – inspiring a number of wars and resistance from the alliance's neighbors.
In 83 Avard, a 10th nation was added to the alliance – and that 10th nation bordered on a theocracy loyal to the holy city of Karmen. A number of churches in Karmen felt threatened by the Karatikan Alliance, and urged several nations to join them in a holy war against the 'stagnant and backwards' druids of the alliance. The Heirophant responded strongly and firmly, by 'losing' an entire enemy army for two weeks, until it capitulated from lack of food and drink. With the loss of a strong army to 'dishonorable tactics', another crusade was launched – after which two more nations were added to the alliance. Karmen responded by allowing all churches of all gods to have embassies and even headquarters there, something the holy city had resisted for several millennia.
In 115 Avard, a conjurer by the name of Har Dont used insects to unleash plague and devastation upon any nation that stood in his way, beginning along the coastlands near the Gulf of Tonkin. Several nations used this as political leverage against the Karatikan Alliance, even as Har Dont cut a swath of destruction west and into the interior. Two nations were literally eaten alive by Har Dont's insect minions, before his threat was taken seriously. The Karatikan Alliance began serious efforts to force Har Dont back, pitting druids against conjurers, and animals against insects.
Har Dont used thrikeen to considerable advantage – and may have been responsible for their creation on Gaeleth, as they were never recorded in history, prior to the Har Dont war. The thrikeen were not particularly suited for the plains and forests that Har Dont was conquering, but when coupled with insect conjurers, the thrikeen were a formidable force.
The conjurer's initial attacks and forays were well-timed and well-coordinated, but after two years of war, his behavior became erratic and sometimes careless. As Har Dont's power slipped, the power of a priest-monk of Whalin named Markada grew. Markada managed to convince five other nations to join with the Karatikan Alliance to squash Har Dont once and for all. Markada and Har Dont met in combat near Lake Angelica, where mounted knights fought thrikeen, side-by-side with animals of the forests and plains, and swarms of insects that bit and stung. Markada proved the overall victor, and with the lead conjurer defeated, most of his underlings scattered, especially when the remaining thrikeen were slaughtered.
The Har Dont war brought considerable controversy to the Karatikan Alliance, as other nations once-again maligned the druidic nation, claiming that Har Dont was a renegade druid, and not an arcane conjurer. After several years, the controversy slowly died, with the aid of alliance-paid minstrels and historians, who recounted the true nature of the battle, and explained many of the differences in mages and druids.
For nearly nine decades after the Har Dont war, the Karatikan Alliance's borders remained inviolate, and an age of peace pervaded all the members of the alliance, and even those nations willing to trade with it. The rangers and the druids were under the direct care of the Heirophant, whose wise and just rule earned the admiration of the people, and the respect of its leaders.
An upstart noble named Hugen Karanal had used treachery and triple-crosses to obtain for himself the crown of Letheil, situated just west of the holy city of Karmen. He then declared himself emperor, and went on to conquer his more western neighbors, creating the modern empire of Karanal. The various churches could only object, as Hugen Karanal carefully maneuvered through the political machinations of the holy city, sparing the lives of all who surrendered, including priests.
Empreror Hugen (the 1st, as history would have it) decided to flex his muscles in combat with the Karatikan Alliance. In 202 Avard, he began a series of feints and attacks aimed at probing the powers of the druids and rangers – after carefully studying the prior two centuries of history available on the alliance. Both sides met surprising resistance, as Emperor Hugen I's people were strangely fanatical of their charismatic leader (and carefully prepared by the emperor's minstrels and bards), and the emperor's armies could make no real headway against entrenched druids, treants, and ranger armies.
One of the emperor's professional soldiers, whose weapon had broken in combat, retreated from the battle only to save the life of a weapons smith named Purrile. The soldier died saving Purrile's life, and not long afterwards, the smith discovered the Relic of Infierne – calling into being the God of Weapons. Purrile became Infierne's first Chosen, and immediately began crafting weapons and converting followers from the empire's soldiers.
The alliance's rangers were forced to fall back against the vastly superior weapons of the empire, until a deal was struck with Infierne's Chosen. In exchange for rare metals and the secrets of composite bows, Infierne's other smiths began to make weapons for the alliance, as well.
After five years of testing one another without finding a real weakness, both sides agreed to a peace. Emperor Hugen I met with Heirophant Avard Karatika on the southern tip of the Orin Sea, and exchanged prisoners and promises of peace. The cunning emperor met his match in the immortal heirophant, and returned to his empire content with its borders – and leaving a lasting legacy for the Empire of Karanal. The political ramifications were not lost on the emperor, either – because by meeting the Heirophant as an equal, he had secured for himself at least as tenable a hold on politics in Karmen as the Karatikan Alliance.
In 254 Avard, the Nathelian priests and ambassadors throughout the northern world departed quietly, leading many northerners to suspect that Nathel, the Dark God, was dead. This was to be the undoing of the alliance, in the end.
Over a century would pass, bringing peace and prosperity to the entire region, before turmoil would break out again. The Karatikan Alliance and the Empire of Karanal held an easy peace with their armies, vying with one another for political dominance in the holy city of Karmen. In 361 Avard, Avard Karatika disappeared. The Heirophant's secretaries and minions tried to cover the disappearance as best they could, hoping that he would return, but word leaked out. The Empire of Karanal, under the reign of Hugen II, made a surprise attack against several alliance nations simultaneously, utilizing massive numbers of cavalry for quick strikes. Emperor Hugen II calculated that if he could calf off just two nations from the alliance, and keep them, he could considerably weaken the alliance – perhaps enough for it to collapse without its figurehead, the Heirophant.
Because of the long peace, the defenders were initially at a loss. The mounted bowmen of the empire were too heavily armed for most rangers and soldiers, and managed to capture and control several hundred miles' worth of territory before the alliance responded in force. When the alliance did respond, it was with enough overwhelming force that the Karanalese soldiers were routed nearly back to their capital. Witnesses reported the full 'force of nature' 'trampling' soldiers on the battlefields. Huge felines, specially bred wolves, and even boars with metal-tipped tusks were augmented with elven archers and swordsmasters that could walk among the limbs of trees as though they were a highway.
Emperor Hugen II brought in his reserves, and fought the alliance to a stand-still – within the borders of his own territory. Because of the size of the empire, and the size of the alliance, many began to fear a long, drawn out war. Entreaties by the holy city of Karmen, and from many nations nearby, managed to maintain the stand-still for several months, despite the loss of Karanalese pride and territory.
Avard Karatika suddenly returned astride a black unicorn, flanked by huge, walking cedar trees. The Heirophant led the rest of his armies directly to the capital of Karanal, Teskar, where he forced the surrender of Emperor Hugen II.
As with the rest of the alliance nations, the empire was allowed to retain its own national identity, and had to promise in writing to allow alliance reforms – druids, rangers, peace with the other alliance nations, and acknowledgement of the Heirophant and all other national heads as an equal. Hugen II accepted the defeat well, and went on to reign for another two decades. No one ever found out just where the Heirophant had gone, or why. The question intrigued bards and minstrels for several decades afterwards.
The next century and a half brought unparalleled stability to northern and central Galanath. Many other nations joined the alliance because of its international trade abilities, and the abilities of its druids to change the world to a place better for both nature, and for mankind. Cities grew in size. The guilds grew in power and prestige. Knowledge was preserved, and history was analyzed.
In 504 Avard, the Theocracy of Priot – a nomadic, horse-based people – invaded the southern lands of the Karatikan Alliance. The theocracy had, apparently, never encountered the alliance before, and the initial invasion was part and parcel of the theocracy's ravaging of the lands of southern Galanath. The theocracy was an extension of a massive domain on the Sharonol Steppes, and had conquered everything in their path. They used massive armies to starve out whole cities in a siege, and catapulted human remains (and sometimes human hostages) into a city, to spread disease, and hasten the city's surrender.
The Theocracy of Priot was beaten back by 505 Avard, but many citizens were concerned about repeated attacks. Essentially, for the first time, the members of the alliance wanted a preemptive strike against Lurian Priot, the ruler of all the steppes, and Overchief of the Meyreyt Peoples. Overchief Lurian Priot had carved out a dynasty for himself out on the far steppes, and conquered much of southern and eastern Galanath. The members of the alliance feared that, with his enormous numbers, he or more of the Meyreyt people would return.
The Heirophant gave the matter considerable thought, before deciding that the cost in human lives would not be worth a war, in the end. Avard Karatika made the decision himself, but his standing, and that of the druids that were a part of everyday life in the alliance, held considerably more sway than any other national leader. The decision was spread far and wide by the minstrels, and the Heirophant's popularity began to wane. Ironically, Overchief Lurian Priot received word of the decision, not long after finding out that the Theocracy of Priot was defeated.
The overchief gathered an enormous army of horses and infantry, and proceeded northwards across the steppes, until he encountered the first nations on the outskirts of the alliance. The overchief razed everything in his path, determined to destroy the alliance, and make the Heirophant's power fade as his decision failed the people.
Avard Karatika rallied a fair number of troops, but not nearly so many as he would have, organizing a preemptive attack against the Meyreyt people. With his popularity crumbling, the Heirophant personally led his druidic and ranger troops to victory, time and time again, until he met Overchief Lurian Priot on the field of battle.
Badly outmatched at almost 15:1 odds, the Heirophant hoped that a personal victory over the overchief would break the will of the Meyreyt people, and send them away from the alliance. Unfortunately, the death of their overchief sent the Meyreyt into a battle frenzy. The Heirophant, despite the pleas of his advisors, chose to stay until the very last man was slain – including himself.
The Meyreyt people tried to go on, terrorizing and ravaging the lands of the alliance, but Avard Karatika's reserves had never been called in, and held the frontier lines against the reduced Meyreyt clans. After several months of battles and skirmishes, they withdrew back into the steppes, severely reduced in numbers, and without an overchief to unite them, and prevent them from warring with one another.
Because of his vast influence on the world, and the pleas of his advisors, Avard Karatika was resurrected from the dead by a Disciple of Barith, the Plant God. Shaken by his deathly experience, the Heirophant returned to the Sebre Nation to review his policies, and call a Council of Nations. The Council of Nations was open to diplomats and ambassadors from all nations, and there were representatives from as far away as the Granite Clan of dwarves, and the continent of Chilleth. The council essentially debated peace for three months, and reached no overall conclusions. It was, however, agreed that the council produced good results, and that one year later, in 506 Avard, the council would reconvene to discuss a general constitution – essentially, the potential for all the northern lands to join the Karatikan Alliance. The council voted, and the total nations within the alliance jumped to nearly 30, encompassing almost the whole of northern Galanath.
Two hundred and fifty years of peace followed, broken only by the occasional war with the barbarian tribes from the west, and a series of Sholin attacks in 578 Avard. Until the Storm Wars of 762 Avard, little else was allowed to happen in the northern lands. The people grew rich, fat, and more contented by the decade, while the Heirophant maintained an adequate defensive force of superbly-trained rangers and warriors.
From 254 Avard until 762 Avard, the theocratic empire of Nathel grew slowly but surely, conquering all before it, well out of sight of the alliance, and the civilized world. Plotting and scheming, using spies and planted insurgents, the empire timed its war with a prophecy of a natural, global upheaval that would happen around 758 Avard.
The global upheaval was on a massive scale, and nothing the druids of the alliance could do, could hold back the cataclysmic upheavals. Tidal waves, tsunamies, volcanoes, earthquakes, floods, storms, and more turned all of Gaeleth nearly inside-out – even in the empire of Nathel. The druids spent a great deal of their energy and lives attempting to calm the earth, but to no avail. They knew not the reason for the upheaval, and were at a loss to do more than endure it.
As the alliance began to question its druids, Nathel's planted agents made all signs point to the alliance as the perpetrator. Well-paid bards and minstrels spread rumors about how the druids' long reign was causing the upheavals, because they were maintaining an unnatural balance between man and nature. (Ironically, there was perhaps more than a grain of truth in the claim.) When all was chaos, Nathel's armies struck.
Despite initial losses, and a fierce rally, the druids never really recovered from the rumors and natural catastrophes. Nathel was killed out on the battlefield, as were a number of other gods. New gods were born, such as Yatindar. But in the end, even after holding together long enough to end the war in 672 Avard, the alliance was finished.
In 668, Avard Karatika moved his base of operations to Rhythis Keep, after befriending the Chosen of the Goddess of Knowledge. The Chosen, an archmage known as Vyrboth Liss, had a firm grip on the remainder of politics in the holy city of Karmen, and in the ancient and indestructible Rhythis Keep. The Heirophant hoped to make use of Vyrboth Liss' wisdom and experience, to see if the alliance could be rebuilt, or needed to be let go.
Nathel's replacement in the war, Nabrol, had a final order for his peoples in the Storm Wars, before he withdrew. The final order had all of his people still in the lands of the alliance sacrifice themselves to Nabrol's premier blood mage, Refterdardes. Refterdardes has only moments before the not-inconsiderable power of the monumental sacrifice escaped, and he used the power to direct a highly amplified fireball at Rhythis Keep – killing everyone inside, including Avard Karatika, his senior leaders, and many of the nobility of the alliance that were there for a final Council of Nations.
The blast engulfed Refterdardes, as well, and left a massive crater lake around the indestructible Rhythis Keep.
Vyrboth Liss, away from the keep to deal with an errant son, was slain by that son – destroying the last hope for the alliance.
As the alliance collapsed into individual, war-weary nations, the churches – which had gained in power considerably during the war – stepped forward to fill the role of the old Karatikan Alliance.
The Sebre Nation was still intact, but only barely. Another druid was named Heirophant, in honor of Avard Karatika, but the nation would never recover its lost glory and power.