Night's Dark Terror
The ancient history of the land now known as Karameikos can be found in the Song of King HalavIn ancient times, the land now called Karameikos was the forest homeland of the Traldar, men and women so favored by the Immortals and allowed to live in these beautiful lands.
The Immortals let the Traldar live happy, simple lives. The Traldar fished and hunted; the men spent most of their time sporting with one another and offering praise to the Immortals.
But the Immortals knew that the happiness of the Traldar was to end. Far to the west, a race of evil beast-men was preparing to march through the easterly lands in search of booty, prisoners and more hospitable homelands.
These beast-men had their own Immortal sponsors equal in might to the patrons of the Traldar, so only victory between man and beast-man would determine the fate of the two races.
The Immortals descended to Lavv, a Traldar village, to find clever youths and give them secrets they could use to defeat the beast-men.
They visited Halav Red-Hair, a maker of stone knives, and taught him to forge weapons and armor of bronze. They also taught him the arts of the sword and the strategy of warfare. They visited Petra, a maker of pottery, and taught her art of the bow, the craft of medicine, the use of the potter’s wheel, the spinning of flax and the use of the loom.
They visited Zirchev, a huntsman, and taught him how to tame and ride and fight from horses, how to train dogs to fight for their masters, how to walk silent as the cat, swim as the fish, see as the hawk.Halav, Petra and Zirchev told the people of Lavv of what the beast-men intended. The king laughed and tried to drive the trio from Lavv. Halav, using the bronze sword given him by the Immortals, slew the king and assumed his crown.
In the years that followed, King Halav, Queen Petra and the Huntsman Zirchev taught their secrets to the people of Lavv and brought all the other villages of Traldar lands under their sway. Villagers grew into mighty cities, and Halav was renowned for his fairness and wisdom.
Eventually, the beast-men attacked in numberless waves from the west. The Traldar in glittering bronze armor stood against them. The irresistible force of the beast-men crashed into the unmovable object of the Traldar, and the war went on forever. Both sides lost great numbers of warriors; each Traldar fighter slew dozens of his bestial enemies before being slain.
Finally, King Halav managed to find the king of the beast-men alone on a hilltop. The beast-king was twice the height of a man, with the head of a wolf and a hairy body that was foul beyond compare. It brought its great axe against the sword given Halav by the Immortals.
This was the final battle of man and beast-man. It raged on from dawn until noon, both kings growing so tired that each could barely wield his weapon. In the “Song of King Halav,” both take time to rest during the fight and each describes his resoluteness and unconquerable fighting ability.
Evidently both were right: King Halav and the King of the Beast-Men perished upon one another’s weapons. Their armies looked upon one another, the beast-men now fearful because their king had perished, and the Traldar resolutely raising their weapons and barring the beast-men from advancing.
The beast-men departed Traldar lands. Queen Petra and Zirchev took up Halav’s body and returned home. Great was the lamentation in Lavv when they arrived, but, during the ritual burning of Halav’s body that night, the Immortals visited, spiriting Halav, Petra and Zirchev away. The Traldar mourned their king but turned their eye toward rebuilding their lands into a mighty empire.
The Dark Age
The time of King Halav has since been called the Golden Age of the Traldar, and (as all citizens of Karameikos know) the Traldar never did found a mighty empire or even fully recover from the devastation brought by the beast-men.
Why? Well, according to Traldar legends which have sprung up since this Golden Age, the land needs to have its king returned to it-King Halav must return to Traldar lands before this can become a mighty nation again.
Regardless, following the destruction of the Golden-Age Traldar, the peoples of this land descended into a dark age from which they didn’t fully emerge until the last century.
Individual villages survived, and the tribesmen eventually lived at greater than subsistence level. Trade soon commenced with Minrothad and Thyatis peoples. The descendents of the Traldar, called Traladara, began inching their way toward economic recovery. But the Traladara still faced many problems.
In the centuries after the Golden Age, many evil things settled in the Traladaran forests and mountains. Some evil force cursed the land with vampires, lycanthropes, and other beasts. Today, every Traladara village has its legends of a neighboring ruin once occupied by a vampire-lord, or some village lad turning out to be a were-wolf and slayer of villagers. Often, the legends are true, and every good Traladara youth knows that the land has its vampires and were-beings still.
Because there were horrid things in the woods, travel between inland villages was unsafe. So, while the coastline villages prospered from the foreign trade, only the bravest of traders would risk expeditions into the Traladaran interior. As a result, the inland villagers tended to remain more provincial than their seaside cousins.
During this dark age, clans of goblins, hobgoblins, and orcs also settled in Traladara lands-usually some distance from the human communities. They warred upon one another, and upon the humans, and in general made the land less congenial for everyone.
More peaceable tribes of elvish and gnomish settlers also came to Traladara, though. The elves settled in the central forests of the land, while the gnomes settled in the mountain foothills northward. Both races traded peaceably with the humans and fought beside them against the less friendly demihumans tribes.