The Sjalfvili are a battered, war-torn people who have endured much sorrow and hardship in a relatively short amount of time. Called the Syndicals by the Order, their early spans were marked by great wealth, prosperity, and technological advancement, with their foundling empire stretching from villages and small clan-based fiefdoms in Narbocia, Heddenlach’s west, all the way across the northern band of the continent to the forested high tablelands of Tethsten in the east. Their ascension was heralded by a golden age in which they discovered several important mineral deposits in the Eburona and Narvoss regions, and in turn fuelled the growth of their scientific and academic progress. Their people enjoyed much prosperity and an equal share amongst the twenty-four clans of the spoils of their finds, and as a people they whole-heartedly embraced the emerging technological wonders developed by the brightest and boldest of the Sjalfvili.
Gifted wanderers and adventurers, the Sjalfvili used some of this new technology to outfit and undertake several expeditions to explore the northern seas of Anaimon, braving the Crystal Currents well before the Order or the Aletheians managed to navigate such treacherous waters. From here, the Sjalfvili struck out further, seeking to establish colonies far across on the isle of Kalaphrond, tempting the very known reaches of the world as they breached the Fauldren Sea, and began exploratory migrations of the legend-shrouded Isle of Phridema. Yet such excursions became cryptic adventure-myths and hero-sagas of their people, for none of these expeditions returned or were heard of again.
It was at a crucial moment in the Sjalfvili’s evolving society that they finally crossed swords with the Orders of the Gods. Long isolated and given a wide berth for their feared tenacity and rumoured technological superiority, the Sjalfvili were seen by many within the upper echelons of the Orders on Heddenlach to be a rival for control of the continent. The Sjalfvili’s repudiation of the Gods of Anaimon and their monotheistic belief system in opposition to the Orders’ pantheon, their rising military strength, the secrets of their technological progress, noted attempts to broker treaties with the Iera, and their cultural practices were all convenient reasons cited for the Order intervening in the destiny of this people.
After the unexpected deaths of the most revered and respected Sjalfvili clan leaders, the Order stepped in. The Orders of Heddenlach volunteered to objectively arbitrate the disputes between the strongest of the Sjalfvili clans who were vying for overall leadership of their people and rule in Midristonra. Mistrust and suspicion were easily sown amongst the more competitive clans, who failed to realise what the Orders of Heddenlach were doing until it was too late, and the Orders attempted to enforce a newly created title of ‘Sovereign-Regent’ upon the Sjalfvili; a nominated member of the Orders’ Midniaros caste who would govern the Sjalfvili until they displayed what the Order deemed sufficient political wisdom and maturity to govern themselves with stability.
Calling on the Iera to aid their struggle, the Sjalfvili were driven to war for their independence and sovereignty. Maligned and vilified enormously at the hands of the Orders’ propaganda, the Sjalfvili were recast as barbaric cannibals and simple-minded primitives who served only their most detestable impulses. The truth of their struggle was lost in the shrouds of war and the dogmatic campaigning of the Orders on Heddenlach, to the extent that even the Orders and people abroad were seen to acknowledge the wretchedness of this lowly people and the rightful liquidation of their empire beneath the blades of Heddenlach’s armies.
This hateful de-humanisation of the Sjalfvili led to the siege of Midristonra, carried out by the Order. It was there, in the Sjalfvili capital of Midsristonra, where the Orders of Heddenlach and their allies seconded from abroad, brought the full weight of their Koinomahkes to bear, crippling the Sjalfvili empire and ending their momentous progress.
Sadly, the Sjalfvili’s fierce independence and desire for even the lowliest of their people to have a vested interest in, and ability to alter and vote upon, the destiny of their nationhood also ultimately fuelled their defeat. Betrayed by their Iera allies who refused to meet the Order in pitched battle, many of the Sjalfvili clans still bickered about who would lead their people when they broke the siege and overthrew the Order. Amongst the dissension and squabbling, entire clans deliberately absented the battlefield and refused to co-operate or collaborate with their erstwhile comrades trapped inside the Sjalfvili capital.
Divided, lacking unified leadership, hemmed in on all sides, and unable to field a large enough force to repulse the mighty Koinomahkes of the Orders from their walls, the starving and worn clans of the Sjalfvili in Midristonra put the capital of their fledgling empire to the torch. Though many died in the blaze and could not shake off pursuit by the Orders’ Koinomahkes, other clans were able to fight their way free, and continued a series of costly guerilla campaigns against the Orders. In those sorrowful fires lay the ashes of their prosperity, their technology, and the recently held promise of a far brighter future. This was enough to keep the Sjalfvili hungry for war.
Outmatched and impoverished in strategy, resources, and manpower, the Sjalfvili nonetheless fought on, but were beaten back time and again, and each small coalition of the few surviving clans willing to band together despite their prior arguments were soundly defeated. The survivors, nursing their wounds and slinking into the bitter cold of Suebiont and Tethsten, abandoned the charred ruins of Midristonra to the Order, who soon after installed new divisions in both Narbocia and a restored settlement and temple district amidst the very ruins of the Sjalfvili’s former capital.
Some clans sought refuge among one of their colonies settled at Falkenmere, but upon arrival found the local clans intermingling freely with the Iera. Enraged by grief and their loss of independence, the defeated clans broke into frenzy, attempting to massacre everyone they felt had betrayed them; those who had remained at Falkenmere and failed to support them during the siege of Midristonra. Their empire shattered, their spirits soiled, these other clans marched into the Fens and stole through the boggy swamps, seeking the succouring hardship of the Suebiont tundra and the cold, tepid forests of Tethsten.
Now, the clans are divided, hostile to any outsiders, and have an uneasy truce occasionally broken by internecine warfare and punitive campaigns perpetrated by the Order. Of what hope remains to their people, the Sjalfvili prefer not to say, cleaving to rumours of a secret power rescued on the very eve of the immolation of Midristonra. In this secret power, it is said, lay the designs and dreams of the few Sjalfvili who believe they can save their people, seeking to use it against their enemies when the time is right.
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(C) Timothy Nancarrow 2014