In the centuries that passed after The Sundering, the atian empire was shattered, the tar’tchii faded into obscurity, the demons of Cha'karthamoré retreated back to the south, and most of the dwarves retired into their mountain stronghold of Vordaal. The land that was to become known as Rune however, was sheltered from the effects of The Sundering by the mountain ranges of The Scar, and thus life for the scattered tribes of humans who made their living in the dense woods which lay beyond carried on as normal.
The vast wooded valleys and temperate climate of the land that became Rune made an ideal habitat for humans. Relatively undisturbed, they were able to multiply and develop freely in this part of the world. Over the centuries they gradually evolved, moving from their caves and constructing wooden huts in small, sporadic groups, which over time grew and became villages and towns. The wooden huts were gradually replaced by stone houses, and some of the towns grew ever larger into cities. Larger settlements were built on places with natural defences, and even to this day the sites of many of these ancient places are where major Runic cities now stand.
People led simple lives. Most were farmers or fishermen. A crude written language was developed, initially used merely as marks and symbols to designate borders or differing towns. These marks were the beginnings of not only the modern-day Runic language, but also helped with the formation of the land of Rune itself. Militias were created to protect their homes from wild beasts within the woods. The land was made up of many small states, the borders of which were constantly disputed, and skirmishes between neighbouring clans were common. Militias became armies, and life gradually became harder as conflicts escalated into wars. Towns were attacked and raised, people were slain, and disease became rampant. The people of this war-torn land would have likely torn themselves asunder if it were not for the sudden outside invasion they then faced.
Year -6 to -3: The Gilth Swarm
They came from the north. The skittish, feverous hordes of the gilth swarmed forth from their cave-fortress of Nethicka at the behest of their leaders. Hordes of the deformed creatures swarmed upon the northern peninsular and began a campaign of destruction, burning and destroying everything in their path. So intense was the devastation that, even centuries later, the land has still not recovered, and is known as Bleak Point.
The invasion of gilth drove people inland as they retreated before the ferocious, gibbering horde. Refugees were forced to mingle with people they had been largely isolated from, or previously been at war with, and in turn those settlements inland were made to deal with the influx of foreigners now pressed toward them.
The ferocity of the invasion made it so old hostilities had to be put aside for a chance at mutual survival. Delicate alliances between people who had once warred over lands now put to the torch were founded, and the man who instigated this more than any other was called Braitha Taramir.
It was never clearly learnt where Braitha originally came from. Some say that he was a common farmer who simply found the will to lead. Others believe that he was an avatar of the gods, sent in a time of great need to rally folk against the common foe. Whoever he was, he and his wife, Eisha, changed the course of history and set in motion events that would lead to the formation of the largest and most powerful realm in modern-day Iiosia. It is said that Braitha was as tall as a bear and twice as strong, and that Eisha was so beautiful you could see the stars sparkle in her eyes, though it is widely thought these claims are somewhat exaggerated. Nevertheless they were both imposing and charismatic figures, and were able to bring other scattered, leaderless groups into their fold.
Militias of nearby settlements formed into what became an army of stragglers who had lost or fled their homes. This army eventually arrived at the gates of a large walled town named Núin, which had high stone walls and a deep river flowing before them. The inhabitants, however, had long since fled northwards as they heard of the swarm, leaving the city abandoned and unguarded. It made the ideal place for Braitha and his followers to make their stand.
It was at Núin that the swarm was eventually halted. Funnelled southwards toward it by the Lonely Mountains, the vast numbers of gilth fell upon the walls of the city. Despite their numbers and their climbing and swimming ability, the walls they faced held thanks to the steadfast resilience of the forces gathered by Braitha and Eisha.
The swarm lost their momentum. After suffering heavy losses at the walls of Núin, the invaders seemed to lose all taste for battle. Eventually, they filtered away. Many returned to their homeland, yet stragglers remained behind and fled into the caverns within which the humans had once made their homes.
The people rejoiced as a unified whole, having driven this mutual enemy from their lands; united under Braitha Taramir and Eisha.
Year -3 to 0: The Ghreal Invasion
Yet, it was not over. From beyond the seas, others had been watching; eyeing the humans’ vast resources and potential to supply thousands of slaves.
This new threat came from the south, across the Whitewater Sea. They were the ghreal. Power hungry, war mongering monsters that had once had been men, but had since been tainted by Black magic to become both much more and far less. The ghreal were disciplined, well armed, armoured and organized – entirely different to the mass of gilth that had swept over the northern half of the land.
They had waited and watched for decades; their spies lurking, hiding, and reporting on how the humans were developing. The ghreal had been waiting for an opportunity to strike when the humans were at their weakest, and had sent their ships as the gilth had attacked. They used the gilth as a smokescreen to land their ships on the southern shores, and waited for it to be over before launching their assault.
The ghreal, though fewer in number, proved far more efficient in their task. Destroying dozens of settlements and taking thousands of slaves in the first few months of their campaign, those who fled northward before them spread tales of dread and despair with them.
The ghreal founded the mines of The Maw, and the city-port of Ghorn. Manned by the slaves captured in their relatively easy conquest of the southern lands, the mines cut deeply into the mountains of The Scar nearby, and fuelled the ghreal war machine with iron and lead.
As they advanced inland, the ghreal found naught but empty towns and villages as people had retreated before them without a fight, leaving behind everything they owned in an effort to escape. During the first few months of their campaign, they engulfed the cities to the south before sweeping northwards.
Braitha and Eisha were in the midst of re-building Núin when the news of the new invasion reached them. Quickly assessing that they stood little chance of defeating the ghreal in battle with the battered forces and defences left to them, and so they were forced to turn to others for aid.
They had heard of a large town to the east of Núin, which went by the name of Lakeheart. Those who had been there told of a prosperous city built on a highly defensible location upon an island between two large lakes. Many refugees had fled to Lakeheart, and the place was in upheaval. However, Braitha recognized that with the combined strengths of Núin and Lakeheart, they stood a chance against the ghreal forces. If they offered their enemy two targets to strike at, the enemy would weaken their forces by attacking both, or risk an attack from one while they besieged the other.
Yet Braitha could not leave the city of Núin, for its defences were weakened and he was needed to organize the people within it. Thus, he had no choice but to send his beloved wife to Lakeheart with the task of uniting the people there and turning them into a force against the ghreal invaders.
Eisha arrived in Lakeheart to find a scene of utter disarray and confusion. The city was packed with refugees and severely overcrowded to the point where much of the surrounding areas had become an impromptu refugee camp. Active hostilities had begun to break out between the rulers and people of Lakeheart and those trying to find solace there.
Trying to speak reason to the irate people on both sides, Eisha attempted to calm them and convinced them of a different path; urging them to unite against the common foe. The leaders of Lakeheart, along with the representatives of differing peoples, bickered among themselves and many did not see why they should listen to Eisha, for they had not been touched by the gilth attack and so had little respect for a leader from a foreign city.
And as they argued, the ghreal approached.
Braitha did not sit idly by, waiting for the jaws of his enemy to close around him. As well as preparing his defences in Núin, he conscripted every able bodied man that he could into his army. He travelled among the refugees that filtered into Núin, giving great speeches which gave people hope, and gave them the will to fight and defend or re-take their lands. Those too weak or unable to fight were sent beyond the city to find some refuge in the Lonely Mountains. Those who stayed behind agreed to fight, knowing that if they did not all of the land would be conquered, and everything they knew and loved would be lost.
The ghreal cut a path straight to the centre of the the human lands. The cities of Núin, with its strong, tall stone walls, and Lakeheart, which lay defended between two vast lakes, were the goal now. If those cities were to fall, then humankind would be lost.
The ghreal knew that if they killed Braitha and the bulk of the humans there, the rest of the country would be theirs to conquer and rule. So they set their sights on Núin, and left a small vanguard to watch over the squabbling in Lakeheart intending to return there once their work at Núin was completed.
By the time the ghreal army, made up of six thousand ghreal warriors and another two thousand husk slaves, arrived at Núin, they found a stalwart defence awaiting them. Braitha’s forces had less than half of the numbers as the invaders, although they did have their high stone walls as well as rows of ditches, pits and moats which had been prepared as the host approached.
Nevertheless, the ghreal war force was as efficient as it was ruthless, and their siege engines began to tear the city’s defences apart. Hordes of mindless husks were sent to their doom before the ghreal themselves even approached the battle, in an effort to waste the defenders' resources and weaken their resolve.
It worked. Those inside the city, faced against the might of an enemy that made the gilth look like a swarm of angry bees in comparison, began to lose heart. Talk began to spread of a retreat from the city; a move to some other place of protection and solace, where they might build their strength anew. Even some on Braitha’s own council advised such action, but he himself knew that it was folly.
He realized that if they did not halt the ghreal at Núin, then no other defense would be so consolidated as it was there, and the ghreal would inevitably break down all other resistance it faced. He had to have faith that his beloved would unite those gathered at Lakeheart and bring their forces against the rear of the ghreal army.
It is said that, as the ghreal approached in what they intended to be a final, crushing offensive, Braitha gave a great speech to his people standing atop the battlements and rallied them against their foes. After that, the city held and the defenders' strength was resolved.
The attacks took a terrible toll on the city, though. It was reduced it to piles of rubble, unrecognisable from the buildings and streets that had stood there. With Braitha at their fore, the defenders within stalwartly refused to leave the battered remains of their defences, even when it seemed that they were doomed and stood alone and abandoned.
Thankfully, that was not the case. Eisha’s impassioned pleas to the leaders gathered at Lakeheart eventually paid off and, as they saw sense, they combined what remained of their armies and marched upon the ghreal.
The combined forces of those gathered at Lakeheart attacked the ghreal host in the flank, momentarily halting attacks on the city. The ghreal, however, were not to be broken by such an event. They were ready for the assault on their lines and met it with as much determination as that of the defenders of Núin.
If the humans held any hope that the attack would break their invader’s army, then it soon died out as the ghreal staunchly refused to be pushed away from the city. Even as they fought now on two fronts, the ghreal pressed their human foes, and the scene was set for a very lengthy and costly battle.
It was not long after this event, some three weeks into the siege on the city, that the ghreal encountered another, even more pressing concern. Supplies arriving from Ghorn had slowly subsided, until they finally stopped altogether. Scouts sent back along the supply lines finally reported that Ghorn seemed to have been completely destroyed.
They reported that the entire city was a burnt out husk; destroyed by some wild fire that had not only gutted the city but also wrecked over half of the sailing ships that comprised their armada. With barely any survivors to speak of, those that were found reported an attack by a monstrous winged beast that had broken free of the mountains of The Maw, and had set upon the surrounding lands with a ferocity that put even the ghreal to shame before flying away and not being seen again.
The ghreal were not a race to exaggerate, and so such reports were taken extremely seriously. With their supply lines broken, and their armada in ruins, the army had no choice but to abandon the siege of the now ruined city in the hope of salvaging a way home.
They swiftly withdrew from the city of Núin and retreated from the battles against the humans from Lakeheart. The humans let them leave and did not follow them. After the months of brutal warfare, thousands of deaths and the ruin of so many homes, all taste of war and conflict was lost.
Year 0 to 5: The foundation of Rune
Afterwards, Braitha Taramir became king, and Eisha his queen. There was no ceremony; those about him just listened to what he had to say since he was a natural commander. Even the leaders of other groups acknowledged his authority, bowing their leads and pledging allegiance. The people became unified under him, and in the years that followed began to set up a government, and founded the land of Rune.
From the east, the sea-faring people of the ancient city of Pen Daka, who had been largely untouched by the invasions that had racked the land for the past decade, also threw in their lot with Braitha. They did this not out of loyalty, but for the profitability and security added in joining such a large, strong alliance.
Braitha was not naïve enough to think he could rule such a large area unaided (indeed, it has been suggested that he didn’t even want to). Braitha gathered all of the nobles and leaders from around the country and had them sign an oath, not to him, but to the consolidation and singularity of one country, to share and support one another, and to come to each other’s aid when it was called upon. These leaders would be henceforth known as Barons and they would oversee an area of land known as a Holding from a town of their choosing.
This treaty was signed with the runes of each man’s town of birth, and thus, the kingdom of Rune was born. It was known as the Treaty of Runes, and to this day resides within the royal palace.
Lakeheart became the capital, as it sat in the centre of Rune, and it was where Braitha and Eisha retired to while Núin was being rebuilt.
In the years that followed Rune grew prosperous, and recovered from the wars that had raged over it. Farmland was recovered and sewn, the gods were worshiped, people mixed and bartered, and all were united under Braitha and his queen, Eisha. Over the coming decades several towns were built to solidify Rune as a country.
Rune became a unified country and trade, knowledge, and wealth was shared. While the legendary events concerning Braitha and Eisha were recorded after they had occurred and relied largely on what could well be exaggerated and over-eager witnesses, there were those who sought to record history more thoroughly. So it is that events recorded after the founding of Rune are widely accepted to be more reliable than those recorded before it.
When Braitha died of old age, some thirty years later, the city of Núin was re-named Braithor in his honour. Eisha followed him into the afterlife only months after, many say dying of a broken heart after losing him, and the same honour was bestowed upon her for, had she not forged the alliance at Lakeheart, the war against the ghreal would not have been won. Thus, Lakeheart became Eishion, and has been known as such ever since.
Year 37-38: The Blight
Braitha and Eshia parented two children, Aradan and Laitha. Aradan was the elder, and when his parents passed away, he became the second king of Rune. A strong and noble man like his father, Aradan was also a fearless fighter, and insisted in leading excursions to hunt down bandit groups and eradicate caves full of straggling groups of gilth. While well protected and equipped while doing so, it was still an unnecessary risk for a king to take, and it is surmised that, in his own mind, Aradan struggled to live up to the name of his father.
His sister, Laitha, was as devoted to her worship of the gods as Aradan was to the art of swordsmanship. She was instrumental in spreading the word of the gods that are still worshipped in modern-day Rune, while at the same time attempting to stamp out worship of the heathen gods of old who had been revered by the more primitive and decadent tribes which had existed before, and in some cases after the founding of Rune.
It was not long into the rule of Aradan that the prowess of both brother and sister would be called into use, as the second king met with the first and greatest challenge of his reign.
The legacy of the ghreal invasion persevered within Rune as, underground, one of the ghreal stragglers had begun to conduct strange and bizarre magics.
Abhorrian was his name. During his time with the ghreal he had been a wizard of considerable power, but as the invasion force retreated he and a number of his fellows had been ambushed by a group of vigilante human soldiers who were out to kill as many ghreal as they could in an act of vengeance. All but Abhorrian were killed in that encounter, and he himself was gravely wounded. He retreated to a nearby cave within the Pinefrenzy Forest, and dwelt there undiscovered for many years.
Abhorrian honed is powers in dark magics; he worked with necromancy, with raising the dead, and studied how to lengthen his own foul existence.
Abhorrian became the first ever lich – a mage who successfully cheated death by consuming the souls of other life forms. He spent decades perfecting the art, praying on nearby farms and villages. People disappeared – sacrificial pawns in his game against death, and eventually the area was deserted. Even to this day the region where Abhorrian perfected his black magics are shunned and abandoned, and it is known simply as Darkland.
This desertion did not come before Abhorrian had achieved lich-dom however, nor did it do anything to hinder his research. Indeed, it helped him, for it enabled him to resurrect those who lay within the graveyards of the abandoned settlements. Restless soon amassed into an army which Abhorrian finally led into battle against neighbouring villages and small towns in the winter of the year 37.
The winter of year 37 was especially harsh, with freezing winds and heavy snowfall impeding the humans and forcing them to retreat into their high-walled cities. The cold had no effect on the undead, who revelled in the long nights and unguarded countryside, digging up graveyards and destroying small settlements, further swelling their ranks. While the humans hid from the cold, the undead grew stronger.
In the spring of the 38th year, Aradan and Laitha gathered the army and marched upon the undead host. They reached the edge of the Kakeri Swamp with the intention to do battle, only to find that when they arrived there was little sign of their foul enemy. It was only as night began to fall and darkness grew that the dead rose out from within the swamp where they had been hiding and launched their assault.
The battle raged all night. The army of Rune slightly outnumbered the walking dead, though their troops tired and the darkness hindered their ability to fight and maneuver. The undead were not troubled so, and pressed the human forces throughout the night.
Abhorrian’s army might well have won if it were not for the army of Rune’s tenacity. Under the leadership of king Aradan, the humans lasted out until dawn, at which time Laitha called upon the goddess of the sun, Auraura, to aid them in battle.
Whether it was the goddess’s blessing, or if it was just the presence of the sun itself, the dawn brought a turn of fortune for the living, and they managed to rally and push the undead back into the swamp and destroy them. Abhorrian's body, though, was never found.
In the aftermath, Aradan and Laitha were hailed as heroes and, as their parents before them, they had cities named after them; Arador and Laithior, which grew up shortly after these events as trade was established with the north and west of the country.
Year 38-322: The Holdings
Because of Rune’s vast size, it took many years for it to develop into its modern day incarnation. Most of the cities which now stand took many years to build. Other, lesser cities and large towns which used to be Holdings have since lost that status as larger, grander structures have been built, and their barons have moved into more impressive surroundings. Then they were founded, the cities of Laithior and Arador completed the belt of four cities across the centre of Rune that was henceforth known as The Heartlands. With all cities being named after important people from Rune’s past, the bond between these holdings are very stong. The city-fortresses of Bastion and Charis were built over a century after the foundation of Rune, and then became the Holdings of their respective areas. In the north, the previous Holding of Rrohoth was largely destroyed when a great flood swept through it in the year 198. Two years later it was decided that the Holding of the North would move to Cenal, and Rrohoth was left abandoned. The biggest change came in the year 322, when The Purge occurred at the city of Ghorn. The place had since been a den of vile decadence and sordid crime, until the Runic army came and cleansed the foul place. Since then, it has been a penal colony and hub for the mines of The Maw and has become the Holding of the South.
Year 35-644: Relations with Orondor
For several centuries, the neighbouring kingdom of Orondor was forever a threat to Rune’s northern border.
Orondor was formed by those who fled north when the gilth and ghreal invaded Rune. The people of Núin, and other large towns and villages who did not join with Braitha in his stand against their attackers all fled north into the cold, inhospitable north. There they began colonizing the dense pine forests and snow-covered planes they found, initially founding the cities of Hendakk and Mishrak.
Yet, when they heard from the south that the new land of Rune had been formed after repelling the double invasions, their leaders greedily eyed the temperate climate, lush farmland and growing wealth of their neighbour. Years had passed since the events of the invasions; Braitha and his queen had already passed away, and The Blight had just been dealt with. The new generation of people from Orondor had grown up having been told a lie by their fathers who, ashamed at their cowardice, said that they fought hard to defend their lands, and many of them had died before they had been forced to flee northwards from the gilth. The lie was believed by many, even those who, though young at the time, could still remember their swift flight from their homes. It was better to believe it than face the truth.
At first, they demanded that their city of Núin (which the Runic people now called Braitha), be returned to them. Arador, the aging King at the time, refuted their claim to the city, but did say that they could return if they swore fealty to him, accepted Runic rule and occupied the lands to the north of Núin, towards Bleak Point.
Those from Orondor rejected this offer, instead launching violent attacks towards Braithor. At this time, the fortress of Viracur and the city of Cenal were not built, and so there was little to stop them. However, Orondor’s forces were primitive tribes in comparison to the garrison at Braithor, and any and all attempts at forced entry into the city were met with abject failure. Eventually, those from Oronodor gave up in their attempts and, dejected, returned north. Over the coming centuries Oronodor grew in strength, though it never matched the power of Rune. Many skirmishes and small battles were fought upon The Neck – the stretch of land that connects the two counties – yet no gain was made by either side. A peace of over two hundred years lasted from the Runic years 433 – 635, during which time old wounds and hostilities between the two countries began to be forgotten. Rune even began to send aid to Orondor, supplying food, coin and other supplies to help when an invasion of Ferian invaded Orondor in the year 628. However, it was not to last. A usurper emperor by the name of Lorthar took command in Orondor after the invasion, and after several years of planning and scheming launched an all-out assault against Rune in the years 635-637. During this war, known thereafter as The Schemer’s War, the city of Cenal and much of Rune’s northern third was conquered by Orondor, until they were eventually driven back by the might of Rune’s forces arriving from the south.
Lorthar was killed by a Runic assassin shortly after, and from then on Rune shut its borders to Orondor. There was even talk of invading Orondor and making it a subsidiary of Rune, and such an action may well have been taken were it not for the following events.
Year 644-654: The Construction of Viracur
In the year 643, word began to filter south of a disaster striking at the heart of the neighbouring kingdom of Orondor. At first many of the people of Rune rejoiced, for the conflicts that had arisen between the two countries had driven a deep wedge between them, and many saw it as a sign of divine retribution from their gods upon the hedonistic peoples of Orondor.
But what befell Orondor was far worse and more threatening than that. A young, foolish mage had mistakenly summoned forth from the demonic realm of Inferis one of the six foul Chkarth; the same greater demons that had almost destroyed the world during the events of the Great War, and had ended the pre-historic era of the Age of Wonder.
In the months since its summoning, the cha'karth not only set forth on a path of destruction that led to irreparable damage being done to Orondor, but also brought about a sickness that permeated the land itself, bringing about sickness and death. It caused the very dead to rise from their graves, as the cha'karth created a vast army of undead with which to conquer the world of the living. The cha'karth was slain within Orondor before it could turn its attentions south to Rune, yet the terrible legacy it left behind was far worse than what had previously lain across Rune’s northern border. Whereas before there had been living, breathing men, the cha'karth had turned Orondor into The Land of the Dead. Shambling corpses now roamed in droves, mindlessly killing any and all living things they came across.
A vigil had long been held across Rune’s northern border. Many forts and small castles had been built by both kingdoms during the conflicts and tensions that had endured between them, many of which were abandoned or ruined through warfare. There had been one such fortress at the small coastal village of Viracur for almost a century previous, and over the years it had been adapted and extended into a giant castle that dominated the surrounding countryside.
Viracur was the only castle large enough and positioned far north enough to act as a staging post for the defence against the hordes of the undead. Viracur was expanded over the next decade to become one of the greatest man-made structures on the face of Iiosia.
It stands atop a giant cliff face, with the rough seas crashing on the rocks below. The castle is huge and imposing, and garrisons close to a thousand men who patrol and watch for packs of the undead that wander southwards. Viracur is said to be one of the bleakest and most inhospitable places in the world. This reputation is gained not least because certain crimes committed within Rune result in perpetrators being sent here and forced to maintain the fortress or fight the undead. It has gained a level of infamy throughout the world that has led its name being synonymous with cold and dread.
“As chill as the walls of Viracur” is a common expression used within Runic speech.