The History of Ruriatnia
Some 420 years ago, the Empire of Ruritania spread from the forbidding peaks of the Graustark Mountains all the way to the grey, listless waves of the Sea of Zenda. Comprised of six independent duchies – Mittenheim, Graustark, Zenda, Varania, Dawsbergen and Ruritania herself – the Empire of Ruritania, at her height, administered a nation spanning hundreds of miles and containing millions of souls.
Although nominally independent political entities, the five duchies of Mittenheim, Graustark, Zenda, Varania and Dawsbergen all paid military and economic tribute to the Emperor of Ruritania; a figure who, by tradition, also served as the absolute ruler of the Duchy of Ruritania. Although the confederation was at times unstable (Zenda and Dawsbergen were particular hotbeds of secessionist politics), this grand alliance sustained the Empire for some 1100 years.
However, a little more than 400 years ago, catastrophe struck: the heir-apparent to the Duchy of Ruritania (and, by extension, the Empire itself) was found murdered, his body found strewn across the steps leading into the Ruritanian Tower. Although the heir-apparent was by no means well-loved by his constituents, the thought that he could be killed by a commoner was nonsensical, so deep within the Citadel. The murderer could only have been a member of staff… or a visiting delegate from another duchy.
Immediately, accusations began to fly. All of the dukes disavowed knowledge, and no less than seven different separatist groups across the Empire claimed responsibility for the man’s murder. Slowly but inevitably, each of the duchies began to militarise, all attempting to ward off the designs of the others. Tensions were building, weapons were being forged, and all that was required to set off the powder keg was the slightest spark.
That spark, as it turns out, was a female scion of the noble house of Zenda. A young, wanton girl, she had been engaged in a torrid love affair with a Gaustarkian nobleman of rather lesser
rank. This was in and of itself not unusual; nobles of all ranks maintain paramours outside the bonds of marriage. However, in this case, a gossiping chambermaid saw fit to inform a local gang of youths that a Gaustarkian man of ill-breeding was having his merry way with the sweet, virginal daughter of the Duke of Zenda. Unfortunately for the young Gaustarkian, he was subsequently torn apart by a crowd of belligerent villagers upon leaving the young lady’s chambers one crisp evening.
This lynching catalysed an diplomatic crisis, with each duchy declaring war against each other according to age-old factional alliances. Lasting over 20 years, the resulting civil war resulted in the deaths of nearly one million people and the wholesale destruction of the Empire of Ruritania. Growing more balkanised with each passing year, the Duchies of Graustark, Zenda, Varania and Dawsbergen eventually sundered into an innumerable number of counties, independent republics, principalities, earldoms, and small agrarian collectives, while the Duchy of Ruritania itself was left a shattered ruin.
Depression took hold, poverty and plague ravaged the lands, population spread thin, and faith in the gods dwindled. People soon abandoned all means of government structure, it became a dog-eat-dog world with everyone pointing a finger at who to blame. It was not until a sudden an mysterious emergence of a dragon hoard that people were once again forced together to defend what little they had left. A dragon plague scorched the land, attacking in waves then disappearing in a wake of destruction, humanity had all but gave up hope for survival. Hearing no response to their prayers many divine leaders claimed the dragons were sent to cleanse the earth of sin.
Desperate heretics clung to folk law and wives tales, divine intervention and mystic powers. Madmen on street corners spouted stories of Gods taking physical form, walking the land doing battle with the dragons. It did little but fan the dwindling ember of hope amongst an ever expanding void of darkness.
Out of all of the duchies that existed prior to the ‘Godswar’, only Mittenheim remains. A small, remote, and backwards realm ruled by Duke Wilhelm the Reformer, it remains unavoidably yoked to its past – as a vassal state of a once-grand empire.