Humanity’s Descent into Cataclysm

With last week’s discussion on where the Wildmen Tribes came from, I thought it might be interesting to choose a particular family and follow them over several generations from the Golden Era of the Lost Age into the depths of the Cataclysm.  I should note ahead of time that none of these individuals are the direct ancestors of characters in “Tears from Iron”, though some of the knowledge that was preserved through their actions eventually reached the Kayrstaran Empire.

Along the northwestern coast of Lost Age Isfalinis, there was a realm known as the Kingdom of Aquor.  It was a country of modest size, similar in area to the state of Georgia or about half the size of modern day Poland.  Its climate was similar to northern Scotland or Norway.  Aquor boasted a population of a little over a million (similar to Maine today) scattered among countless hamlets and a few modest towns and cities.

Its third largest city, Hanitarn, had a population of about 15,000 and was the home of Master Kortin and his wife, Tanitha.  Kortin was a well-respected scribe, often employed by Hanitarn’s lord and the members of the council to draft formal letters and decrees.  Though about a quarter of the population were literate, most could only read at a very basic level.  Tanitha was a deputy steward to the Seneschal of Hanitarn and was respected for her mercantile and logistical expertise.  The couple had three sons and one daughter.  Their names were Gallian, Mihal, Varnin, and Raitta.

When the Great War began with the great eruptions of Isfalinis’ northeastern mountains, Aquor was fortunate enough to be distant from the immediate effects.  Hanitarn experienced modest ash fall, but the coastal winds and rains washed most of it away.  Cydion’s invasion was focused on the interior of the continent, leaving Aquor well away from the center of the fighting.  Despite that, Aquor had a strong warrior tradition.  Kortin and Tanitha’s two eldest sons, Gallian and Mihal, departed to join the armies of the distant Kingdom of Tuenosia, then facing the brunt of the invasion.  The two men were never heard from again.  They may have died on the field of battle or amid the many plagues and famines that wracked the world.  Or perhaps they marched with the shattered armies of Queen Cathryn during the long retreat and witnessed the final great battle beneath the Hill of Kensethir over half a continent away.

Aquor itself, and the lives of Kortin and Tanitha, remained in relative peace for the time being, though they were troubled by news of Cydion’s triumphs.  But problems were arising closer to home.  One of Cydion’s secondary armies was pushing along the north coast.  They’d already overwhelmed several countries and neighboring Sarnoth soon came under assault.

Tanitha was placed in charge of stockpiling grain stores for Hanitarn in case of famine or siege.  Soon, she was dealing with an influx of refugees from the east as well.  Their daughter, Raitta, became a courier, running messages up to the army in Sarnoth and back.  On one such journey, she was slain in an ambush by troglyd infiltrators.  Their youngest son, Varnin, joined the Aquorian Militia and served as part of a multi-national army under the command of Prince Yujin of Sarnoth in the desperate battles near the end of the war.  With the death of Cydion on Kensethir, the northern troglyd army lost its direction and was finally repulsed.

Thus Kortin and Tanitha survived the war along with their youngest son.  But the aftermath was hardly easier.  Aquor’s population had swelled from refugees fleeing the war.  The troglyds of Cydion’s armies razed the land after them, leaving it barren and lifeless.  Aquor’s crops were largely untouched, but the climate had fundamentally changed.  This began with the volcanic eruptions Cydion unleashed in advance of his attack, but the other slumbering peaks of Isfalinis were awakened by the devastating power unleashed by the deaths of the Etyni.  The skies filled with ash that blocked out the sunlight and rained sludge down upon the world.  Repeated crop failures depleted the supply stores that Tanitha had helped to so carefully set aside.  Rioting became common and one led to a fire that consumed most of Hanitarn.  Tanitha died in that fire.

Heartbroken, Kortin left the ruined city and joined his son still serving with the militia.  Varnin had married a refugee from Sarnoth named Kana and they had two children.  The oldest was a girl named Wendara while the younger, a boy named Stannen, soon died from one of the diseases running rampant through the land.  Kortin’s departure from Hanitarn was well-timed.  Not long after, one of the first Cataclysm induced tidal waves swept the shores, wiping out all life within fifty miles of the coast.  The remnants of Hanitarn were washed away.  But life further inland wasn’t much easier between the rash of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

As Wendara grew older, she took an interest in her grandfather’s letters.  Kortin began to teach her writing in what little free time he had.  But the Cataclysm was growing in intensity.  It was rare for a day to pass without an earthquake, most of them severe.  During one of these, Kortin and Kana died.  Food shortages grew more severe and as many people died from starvation as disease.  Thousands more perished in the relentless upheavals of the land and the sea.  As desperation grew, the last remnants of the old realms vanished.  Neighbors banded together to protect themselves and their diminishing food supplies, or, for those who were hungry, to raid for what they didn’t have.

Yet Wendara was fortunate.  Her father served under Prince Yujin, one of the most respected commanders of the Great War.  While Yujin was unable to protect all his people, he did what he could for those with him.  He forged the remnants of his army into a tribe capable of protecting itself from roving bands of hungry humans, if not from the Cataclysm itself.  Wendara married Yujin’s grandson, Henris, and, though Wendara rapidly lost the skills at reading and writing that her grandfather had taught her, she never lost her respect for words.  She and her husband protected the few books she inherited from Kortin along with the numerous writings of Prince Yujin at a time when many people abandoned such worthless items as superfluous to survival.  It is believed that they had several children, though only one is said to have survived past childhood.  This was Tiernac, mentioned still in the legends of the Osevalli Tribes.  Much that is said about Tiernac is thought to be apocryphal as these stories were all relayed by word of mouth.  Yet it is thanks to the legacy of Wendara and her husband that the older books of Kortin and Yujin were preserved by the Osevalli as relics of a bygone age.  It was near the end of the Cataclysm that these books came into the hands of Jhoacen, one of the early rulers of Rynaeca, likely the first human kingdom to arise from the Cataclysm.  Known as the Philosopher-King, Jhoacen was responsible for sparking a renaissance.  This included gathering old texts and attempting to decipher them.  The written word was but newly restored in Jhoacen’s time and it would be over a century before the old languages were translated.  In this way the words of Yujin were preserved for the age beyond the Cataclysm.  Though Rynaeca was distant from the Kayrstaran Empire, copies of these ancient texts even reached the Syraestari.  They were preserved and maintained by Lady Erpitha, a scholar and friend of the Sorceress Medreuneth, who took an interest in the history of all the peoples of the world, even humans.