The Blood Harvest (/time/-/time/ DA) is the name given to the first great war waged in Edelenn. The war took place during the early Age of Discord, at a time when national identities were first forming. Though several nations were involved, the fighting mostly took place between Moriga and Trand, with the vast majority of the battles occurring in what is now Dunmoriga. Although conflicts were not unknown in any part of Edelenn prior to this conflict, its scope and ferocity was unlike anything yet experienced, and the name is reflective of this sad fact.
Prelude to War
In /time/ DA the regional leaders of what would become Trand began to confer between themselves about the state of the peoples living in the area. After several long months of wrangling about possibilities and engaging in many fruitless squabbles that almost led to blows, the Shenezhniy (wise council) finally agreed to elect one of their own to a preeminent position. Having arrived at this conclusion, the search for a likely candidate began.
Having long sensed this would be the eventual conclusion to the council's deliberation, a minor chieftain of great ambition from the frigid plains north of the central Rubshik Mountains had begun quietly working. Estvann Zemonin made promises, exploited mistrust, built confidence, and after the council had decided the chieftain, found himself elevated to the position of king.
As a ruler, Estvann was tireless. After the election, he wasted little time in making a wide range of decisions that would influence Trand's future direction. His first act was to take the name Estvann I, dropping his humble patronymic to sever the ties of his old life. This trend would continue in all of Trand's ensuing rulers. He next made a tour of all the settlements in the land, visiting towns with the purpose of understanding the breadth and depth of his responsibility. The additional purpose, of letting the people see their new king in the flesh, was also instrumental.
After a year the circuit was complete, and Estvann began to turn his thoughts toward greater goals. Having sensed the dormant power of the people, he hit upon a notion unheard of anywhere else in Edelenn to this point: to form the scattered people into a single nation with a sense of purpose. After two months of consulting with the Shenezhniy, he drew up the Declaration of Intent, a document that acknowledged "the unrivaled glory of the people of Trand" and insisted that "land is a commodity, and he who treads it shall own it as long as his sword may dictate." With these portentous words, Trand had thrown down a gauntlet to the rest of Edelenn, and the world at large. Her people were prepared to fight anyone for a claim that had never before been made.
The Gathering Flame
Estvann's decree didn't make an immediate impact on the world outside Trand at first. Communication across the vast reaches of relatively unsettled land was slow and sporadic, so the first news to other lands came months after wheels were already in motion.
Inside the newly formed nation of Trand, however, the effect was electrifying. Emboldened by the sense of unity, people threw impromptu celebrations or began singing songs in the streets. One such song, Samla revin gorla (Land of plains and mountains), was soon adopted as the national anthem.
This rising ardor of national pride led to a movement called Resht Plemnod (the gathering flame), and Estvann was quick to encourage it. During this time he instituted a standing army, yet another invention of his active mind, and before the year was over, had it drilling as blacksmiths turned out weapons and armor of quality. By the spring, the king felt the preparations were sufficient and personally led the army out of Trand.
Battle plans drafted to this moment had realized early on that an attack eastward would unnecessarily stir up the warlike people of Vondheide, a people for whose martial abilities Estvann had a grudging respect. As a result, the departing army followed the coast almost straight south with the intent of establishing naval ports which could fuel military operations to the interior.
Campaigns and Battles
The Blood Harvest consisted of many battles fought through a series of campaigns during Trand's advance. Among the most notable:
The Thundering Steed
The Thundering Steed was the name given to the first phase of Trand's designs. It involved a quick push down the coast of Dunmoriga to Cartref Adar, with the idea that its natural bay would serve admirably as a port. Estvann left a string of garrisoned forts through the conquered territory in order to protect his supply lines, and before the end of the campaigning season the busy axes and shovels of Trand's army had built a series of intricate earthen fortifications to the east.
The Steed's rush had been completely successful and uncontested; the scattered settlements of the area fled their homes as the army rested and celebrated in security. Slowly, word began to filter through to Moriga: Trand was unstoppable. It was on the shores of Cartref Adar that Estvann shed his title of king in favor of Sarkov (emperor) to reflect the increase of his control and the fact
During the long but fairly mild winter, Moriga surprised Trand in the spring with a headlong assault. Though Moriga's troops had neither the training nor armament of Trand, the suddenness and ferocity temporarily made Trand falter. Through clever planning or sheer luck, the attack took place only days after Estvann had returned home to attend to some matters. In the absence of the emperor the army fell back, fighting in the very waves of the bay. The campaign's name, Dwr-gwaed (Bloody water) takes its name from this inauspicious beginning.
Some determined leaders pushed back, however, and with their example the army was able to force the less trained soldiers of Moriga out of their fortifications. A siege resulted, but Moriga had no hope of prevailing. With no navy of its own here, Trand could send supplies and reinforcements at will. Estvann himself returned on a troop ship, and at his landing the resulting yell of delight from Trand's soldiers prompted a panic in the Morigan army. After assessing the situation, Estvann organized his heavy cavalry and charged through the gates right into the heart of Moriga's forces, with infantry and skirmishers following close behind to exploit the gaps. In the space of a few hours, the emperor had cleared the field.
The rest of the campaign season involved Estvann pushing steadily eastward, claiming land in the name of Trand. At this point, the unplanned campaign exposed its lack of cohesive organization. Though some garrisons had been set up in the new territory as in the first campaign, lines were stretched too thin and Moriga had learned from the previous year. Before long, Estvann realized he was in a perilous position: retreating would embolden Moriga, but pressing on would further press his luck. So he dug in and prepared for the following season.
Trand was far from idle that winter. It sent parties of varying sizes abroad to scout out locations. Several small battles were fought, but always Trand would fall back on its forward position, at which point Moriga would break off.
Sea of Grass
In the third year of the war, Trand decided on a new course. Winter scouting to the south had revealed the true wealth of the area now called the Sea of Grass: horses. The land had traditionally been settled by those with ties to Rahajmanath, but they fared as well as all the settlements in the first year. Within two months the banners of Trand had advanced all the way down the coast.
Rahajmanath, alarmed, sent a couple armies against Trand but to less effect than Moriga's attempts. After the second crushing defeat on the plains, the country withdrew into its islands, and sent urgent pleas to Moriga for a pact between them. Moriga agreed, and a couple more joint endeavors had slight success. By the end of harvest, however, Trand still stood in possession of the land.
Cliffs of Caddwy
During the winter months of the third year, Moriga held its so-called Candlelight Court in an attempt to put an end to Trand's advance once and for all. It was during this council that the captain Enardil recommended fomenting a threat from within Trand, based on his knowledge of the land from previous travels. To buy time for this mission, however, Moriga needed to provide a fixing force that would keep Estvann in place.
In the opening month of the fourth year of fighting, Moriga sent its largest and best trained army yet to face Trand in the field. By design, the army slowly and effectually gave way, retreating by short rushes to the rugged terrain of the Táilte, where a fortified position had been prepared. Here they made a stalwart defense against the onslaught. The conditions and the fighting were cruel, but Moriga held fast and it would appear Estvann was so engrossed he was taken by surprise when news from Trand made him realize the danger brewing at home.
Enardil and his small band had been hard at work stirring up the barbarian tribes. This proud people, loosely connected by a common culture, had long been marginalized and even despised by the civilized areas of Trand, so they were eager to rise up. Thus began the Winter of the Wolves, and the troubles that came from it were sufficient to draw Estvann from his exertions in the field. To the dismay of Trand, he died of an unknown condition, likely pneumonia, on the way.
War's End and Reconciliation
After the death of Estvann I, his son, Estvann II, took his place. Though a capable ruler, he had neither the inclination nor skill to continue the war. Soon after his elevation he recalled the army and began to open negotiations with the countries his father's wars had affected.
For a couple months negotiations between representatives went back and forth, and at last the terms were settled. Trand and Moriga established a border and came to an agreement on the nature of relations between them. Though a certain frosty tension lived between the countries for the next couple decades, eventually things began to thaw.
Moriga did nothing to help itself with its neighbor, Rahajmanath, however. After Trand withdrew from the field, Moriga announced its own nationhood, as did many others throughout Edelenn. During this heady period, Moriga decided to push westward and claim the now open land for itself. In a very short amount of time, it had claimed all of what is now Moriga and Dunmoriga combined, a massive section of the continent. Rahajmanath protested, saying its early settlement gave it right of place in establishing a boundary, but Moriga demurred, claiming its assistance at Rahajmanath's request gave their claim precedence. In spite of strenuous denial, Rahajmanath simply didn't have the clout, politically or militarily, to resist, and had to sit idly by as Moriga claimed the land.
Several traditions have risen from the specter of the Blood Harvest.
The first involves the so-called blood moon, an atmospheric phenomenon in which the moon appears to be tinted red. Nights in which the moon shines thus are called blood nights, and are held as sacred in remembrance of the dead.
Grain in the western part of Dunmoriga tends to grow with a peculiar reddish hue. Though this is likely a result of soil composition, those who live there attribute it to the grain's roots drinking up the blood of the slain. In spite of the grim tradition, the grain has a full flavor and is in high demand throughout Edelenn.
The final, and perhaps most chilling, tradition involves a phantasm. Travelers in the area hear and pass on stories about the Harvestman, a skeletal figure who strides across the plains on nights on which a full moon shines. The traditional story runs like this:
"One night I was out walking and saw a figure silhouetted against the moon. When he turned to look at me, I saw only two glowing red eyes. With a clack of his jaw, he turned, and I could see the moon shining between each rib. He had with him a scythe that he swept back and forth, but not to harvest a grain like you ever saw. Instead he was taking the arms of the dead as they rose from the ground."
It is considered unlucky to speak of this figure by name, and many farmers will leave gifts of silver coins and rings on smoothed out stones in their fields as a peace offering to keep the Harvestman from bringing trouble to the homestead.