Estalia in Flames
History of Estalia
The Kingdom of Estalia
Around 2500 years before the age of Sigmar, the high Elves of Ulthuan settled along the coast of northwestern Estalia. The current port of Bilbao was the site of the major settlement of Athel Ellyria. As the name suggests these elves were from the Ellyrion area of Ulthuan and bred their horses on the plains to the east, known as the Prairie del Equus.
Growth of the Kingdom
Very few humans lived in the lands of Estalia and the mountains were infested by all kinds of monsters. The elves felt some compassion for the hard-pressed humans and instructed them in the basics of building, agriculture and the military arts. Gradually the humans took control of the plains of Estalia building a city in the south at Magritta. In the north where the Sierra del Draco meets the Sierra del Diablo, on a steep hill in the angle where the mountain ranges meet, the Estalians built a mighty fortress: Cuidad Cordoba. By now 3 tribes had become dominate around Bilbao the Portua, in the south the Castilla and around Cordoba the Aragona.
The land became prosperous, as in partnership with the elves sea trade routes were opened to the developing human kingdoms and Araby. Then in -1589 Caradryel the Phoenix King recalled the elves to Ulthuan to fight the Dark Elf invasion.
The Forest Brethren
A few remaining elves took their steeds and fled east to the forests. The northern forest became known as the Forest of Sorrows, as the elves took crippling losses in driving out the goblins. The Southern Forest became known as the Sylvan Glades, as the few elves that travelled there found the goblins gone. Cut off from their Elven brethren these elves were forced to intermarry with humans to keep their kindred going. In doing so they did not develop the same relationship with the forest as their Wood Elf cousins. In addition the forests of Estalia are much younger than those of the rest of the old world, with no Dryads or Treemen living there.
Over time the Forest Brethren (as they became known to the Inquisition) adopted the Estalian tongue and their own language and writing became lost or used only symbolically in religious ritual. The forest living maintained the Elven skills with the bow and ability to move swiftly over difficult terrain.
The Years of Terror
The next 1500 years were years of terror, destruction and despair for the human inhabitants of Estalia, interspersed with short periods of prosperity. First the Skaven appeared from tunnels dug under the mountains and ravaged the land around Bilbao and Magritta, though failing to take the cities. In -c800 the Araby tribes of the Mhorri and Barbarii invaded the south sacking Magritta and seizing most of the lands of Castilla. The High King Pedro the Ninth retreated to the fortress of Cordoba while the invaders settled in the lands from Bilbao in the northwest to their city of white marble, Grenada, in the southeast. For the next 800 years the people of Estalia except for those around Cordoba, the city of Bilbao and the Forest Brethren bent to the yoke of the invader. However they remained defiant and kept their own traditions and language alive waiting for the day of deliverance.
The Golden Age
In the year 12 of the Imperial Calendar the ambassadors of the High King of Estalia, Carlos the Eighth reached the court of the legendary Sigmar. They asked for his help in ridding their land of the Arabic invaders. Sigmar promised gold and experienced war leaders to train the Estalians. To bind this alliance his youngest sister Isolde was betrothed to Carlos. In the year 14 Isolde travelled to Estalia and found Carlos a simple minded and depraved coward. She loathed him on sight but touched by the plight of the Estalian people and loyal to her brother’s wishes she went through with the marriage but did not agree to consummate it. Only the key members of the court knew this and called her the “Infanta” or princess as a mark of respect for her virtue and courage. Ignoring her useless husband, Isolde set out to train the unskilled army of Estalia using the experienced war leaders sent by her brother. Her dowry, which was in gold, was used to buy the best armor and weapons from Tobaro.
Over the next five years the Estalian army drove the Arabic forces before them. The Castillan capital of Magritta was liberated and the Arabs forced into the southeast around Grenada.
A great celebration was held in Cordoba with Isolde leading her army into the fortress city riding a white stallion wearing silver embossed armor. Her golden hair cascaded around her shoulders and the people cheered hysterically. Carlos seethed in his throne room in the palace, he hadn’t seen her in three years and her return humiliated him. In Isolde’s absence Carlos had drifted from being a weak man to an evil man, secretly becoming a follower of Slaanesh. After a few days in the capital Isolde’s informers told her of Carlos’ worship of Chaos. At first she felt compassion, but after the tales of ritual torture and sacrifice of youths and maidens, she decided to have Carlos confined under guard. Carlos was able to bribe the guards and he came to Isolde’s apartments to slay her. However he was no match for this sister of Sigmar, the warrior maiden ran him through. No one mourned his passing and Isolde named Don Fernando Duke of Aragon the heir to the throne.
A few months later a Cordoban Magic User, Veker, a cult brother of Carlos attacked Isolde while she was riding through the city. He only slightly wounded her before being hacked to pieces by her bodyguard. However the blade was enchanted and Isolde died in great agony a few days later. Her army was driven mad by grief and roamed the land slaughtering any suspected practitioner of magic they found. Many innocent healers and good magic users were killed and the practice of magic became forbidden in Estalia for 1000 years. Even today it is only tolerated due to its value in battle. However the changes Isolde had made lived on and the forces of Araby hung on only to the foothold of Grenada.
The Black Crusade
It remained this way with little change until c1020 when the Skaven, driven to ground in the Empire, mounted a major campaign in Estalia. The black plague spread throughout the land wiping out two thirds of the population. Skaven overran towns and villages and the kingdom split into 3 parts centering on Magritta, Cordoba and Bilbao. The Mhorri in Grenada used this opportunity to move west almost to Magritta. Their expansion was only halted due the arrival in Grenada in c1035 by the necromancer Abas el Ajid, and then the Mhorri had problems of their own.
By 1400 the Skaven were being driven back into their tunnels and out of Estalia. In desperation the Skaven turned to an enemy of the Mhorri, Sultan Jaffar. In c1435 Jaffar, convinced by the Skaven that the King of Castilla, Alphonso X, was planning an invasion of Araby and seeing the opportunity to seize a foothold to attack his rivals the Mhorri, he attacked Estalia seizing and partially razing Magritta. In retaliation Alphonso convinced Fernando XII of Cordoba and Rodriga II of Portua to mount a crusade to Araby to destroy Jaffar while simultaneously driving out the Mhorri from Grenada. The crusade was successful with the destruction of Jaffar’s forces at Al-Haikk, though at enormous loss of life including Alphonso himself. Fernando led the survivors back to the ships harassed by desert raiders and undead forces. On their way back to Estalia many ships were lost in storms and taken by Barbarii. Fernando made landfall with less than a tenth of the force that left. He found that Rodriga had been defeated by Akmed el Shair of Grenada aided by the necromancer Algarif. Fernando retreated to Cordoba while the forces of Araby drove both the Estalians and Skaven before them. Magritta was sacked again and the forces of Grenada were only stopped at the gates of Bilbao and Cordoba.
By c2000 only the lands within a days ride of Cordoba and Bilbao were under Estalian control, the remainder of the population suffered under the civil wars of the Grenadan nobility and the predations of necromancers, chaos followers and the inevitable Skaven.
The Prophet of the East
In 2004 a child was born to Domingo and Lucrezia Crenardi in Tobaro. The boy was given the name Tomas and was apprenticed as a scribe in 2018 to Luigi Peno the historian. Tomas was a quiet and studious young man who suffered from the fits of the “Affliction of God”. He had been studying the long and tragic history of Estalia one day at his desk when he fell to the ground in a severe fit. Luigi thought he would die and sent for a healer. While being carried to the home of his parents he had a vision where a beautiful young woman dressed in white came to him and told him that he must go to Estalia to lead the people to freedom. At first he was impressed by her aura of virtue but as he gazed in her eyes he saw a steely and merciless resolve. He knew then that this cleansing would be done with steel and fire. He asked what should be the rallying cry for this great quest. The image of Isolde smiled, a sight both beautiful and chilling, “ Let us use their own words against them. It will be a Jihad, a holy war”. With that she was gone.
The Day of Destiny
The king of Cordoba at the time was Fernando XXIII, a young man only recently crowned. He had heard of this strange Tilean who had wandered in from the haunted mountains and now preached of the legendary Isolde in the marketplaces. He went to the main square dressed as a townsman with only 2 of his closest companions. He saw a man not much older than himself but, with skin that had been weathered brown by the elements, and fierce white scars on his face and arms, which bore witness to desperate battles with savage beasts. This man preached the need for a holy war, a Jihada, against all enemies of Estalia. He walked straight up to Fernando, knelt before him, clasped his hand and looked into his eyes and spoke. “My lord. You and I are blessed. It is our destiny to cleanse this land from all evil in the name of the sacred Isolde”. Fernando was stunned but as he looked at Tomas he saw a halo of white light surround him and a beautiful female voice said, “Fernando, descendent of the first Fernando of Cordoba, this man is my prophet, believe in him and your name will live forever.” Fernando said nothing but lifted Tomas up and led him to his palace.
The Inheritance of Verak
Tomas had been changed by his years in the mountains. Gone was the innocence of youth leaving a driven and determined man who had seen things that would have driven a lesser man insane. Battling hunger and the elements, fighting monsters and goblins, he had survived due to his belief that he was chosen to save Estalia. He had learned to control his fits so he had time to find safety before they overwhelmed him. He continued to have visions of Isolde and learnt more of what was expected of him.
In one vision, just before he left the mountains, Isolde told him of the location of a cave in the last valley before the plains of Estalia. She told that there he would find the keys to the freedom of her people.
Tomas travelled to the valley and within the cave he found the cunningly disguised counterweight, which rotated a false wall and allowed access to an ancient tomb. This was the last resting place of the legendary rune smith Verak Geradson, known as “the Mad”. Verak Geradson had been driven from his home due to breaking tradition by mixing runic lore with the magic of other races. With a small party of friends Verak fled west finally reaching Estalia during the first of the Skaven attacks. The High King of Estalia, Pedro VI, convinced Verak to make weapons for his armies. Verak made a few minor items but saw that Pedro was more interested in expanding his lands than driving out the Skaven. He also had little gold.
Verak had visited a shrine of Isolde out of curiosity; the cult, which flowered after her death, was in decline after 200 years of dwindling support. While there he had a vision. Verak’s followers were used to his visions but they usually were of gold and beer, not dead female humans! Without a word of warning Verak collected his goods and followers and disappeared in the morning mist towards the Sierra del Draco and into folklore.
Tomas found a huge chamber carved from stone and inscribed with ancient dwarven runes. The sarcophagus of the ancient rune smith was still sealed and all around him was his treasure trove and an array of fine weapons, some inscribed with complex runes. However over the sarcophagus was a tablet of marble inscribed in an old Estalian dialect, which Tomas could just understand.
“This is the last resting place of Verak Geradson. Having no heirs I leave my treasure and my knowledge to be used in a time of great need. May the light of virtue shine on he who uses it well, for the sake of the divine Infanta”.
Tomas was stunned that one who was not Estalian or human could dedicate all he had for the future use of the people of Estalia. He knew his time in the mountains had ended.
For two years anyone outside Cordoba would have thought nothing had changed. However in this time the city was transformed. Tomas took over a number of public buildings and created houses of worship for the Cult of Isolde including monasteries for the Brethren of the Infanta and the Sisters of Virtue. In addition he founded a number of poor houses and hospitals winning the common people to the cult. Most important of all he created the Sacred Office of the Inquisition to root out public corruption and all other cults and religions. This led to the arrest of dozens of wealthy citizens who were found guilty of a range of evil practices and suffered various punishments including confiscation of all goods to purification by fire. The resulting increase in the treasury allowed Tomas to mount an armed expedition to the mountains with his most trusted inquisitors, returning with some of the artifacts of the tomb.
On his return Tomas decreed that all study in magic in the future would be under the “patronage” of the Inquisition and focus on anti magic rather than spell casting. After pressure from Fernando Tomas agreed to allow the study of some forms of magic within the Royal College of War, but in return Fernando agreed that any other practice of magic would be punishable by purification by the Sacred Office of the Inquisition.
In 2027 Fernando arranged an alliance with Luiz VI of Portua, nominally a subject monarch. In return for recognition of the ancient title of High King of Estalia, Fernando supplied gold and advisers with promises of a combined assault on the common enemy. Tomas sent his followers to bring the sacred truth of Isolde to the people of Portua. During the movement of agents between the two monarchs much use was made of the forests to provide cover from the forces of the Arabs. This brought agents of the Inquisition in contact with the forest brethren. At first the agents were suspicious of these part elf forest dwellers, however they were encouraged by their simple lives and lack of involvement in magic. Inquisitors sent to investigate them found that the forest brethren worshiped a pure female goddess they called Ishalla, the name they gave to the ancient High Elf goddess Isha. The Inquisitors reconciled this worship with their cult of Isolde and the forest brethren were happy to go along with a revised form of worship in return for allies against their many enemies.
Tomas awoke in his room knowing what he must do. His parents were sad and frightened but Tomas was burning with a fire, which would not be denied. He dressed in a plain black robe and picked up a sturdy staff and headed west, towards the haunted and monster ridden mountains of the Sierra del Draco.
On a cool autumn evening in 2022 Juan Kortusa was warming his hands at the brazier near his sentry post outside the East Gate. He saw a figure coming down the seldom-used Tobaro road. It was a tall gaunt man, dressed in a ragged black gown and carrying a sack over one shoulder. As he came closer Juan could see his staff sparkled with gems and glowing runes, which seemed at odds with his bedraggled appearance. “Who comes from the haunted east?” he asked. The man looked up his pale blue eyes burned into Juan making him step back and clutch his sword. “By the blessed Isolde, Infanta of Estalia, I am Tomas of Tobaro and I come to save this sacred land from the curse of evil.”
In the years since the Black Crusade, the Grenaden kingdom had broken up into many small emirates and princedoms. At the time of the alliance with Luiz the country was racked by civil war with one of the emirs, Akbar, mounting a siege of Bilbao. In the spring of 2028 after 5 years of preparation and hundreds of minor skirmishes to harden his troops, Fernando led his armies west while Luiz sallied out of Bilbao. Taken completely by surprise the two armies crushed the disorganized emirs and princes and by mid summer were at the gates of Magritta. Only the lands east of Magritta including the city of Grenada were in the hands of the Arabs. The Inquisition followed close behind rallying the grateful Estalian people to the cult and ruthlessly purging the followers of other beliefs, magic users and all opposition.
Fernando was weary after such a hectic campaign and wanted to rest and re equip his army. Luiz had already returned to Portua to re establish his rule over the ancient realm. Tomas was at first annoyed then furious. He realized that Fernando did not want to destroy the richest city in Estalia with its successful merchants and trade port; he was prepared to discuss terms including religious freedom. Tomas knew this could be the end of the Jihad and a return to the old ways and eventual collapse of Estalian rule as had happened before. Tomas knew his destiny was to guarantee that the Estalian kingdom would be cleansed and re organized to last forever, for the glory of Isolde. As much as he liked Fernando, he knew this task was bigger and would take longer than either of them would live. More importantly, the fate of Magritta would send a message to all Estalians that the price of freedom from the Arabs was acceptance of the rule of the Inquisition. There would be no backsliding and no mercy for transgression.
Tomas advised Fernando that the last surviving member of the ancient royal house of Castilla, Isabelle, had been found unharmed, young and unmarried in the provincial capital Immira, where the Estalians had maintained some semblance of the old ways. Tomas had known this for some time but had waited to turn it to his advantage, as well as bringing Isabelle under his charismatic influence. Fernando realized here was a chance to control all of Estalia without any risk of challenge from Luiz. Hurriedly he turned over command of the army to Don Lazar de Vedia his second in command and rushed off to Immira. In his haste he forgot that Lazar had recently dedicated himself to the new Inquisition chapter of the lay Brothers of the Infanta. By this act, Lazar de Vedia became the first Inquisitor General of Estalia. Lazar’s first command was to go down in history and he was to earn the most significant justification for his name of Lazar the Merciless, Inquisitor General and Grand Marshal of the Brethren of the Infanta.
With Fernando safely gone, Tomas and the Inquisitors travelled to the towns and villages around Magritta. It was easy to raise anger against the privileged and pampered inhabitants of the city. Most of the Estalians in Magritta had inter-married with the Mhorri people and had adopted their dress and culture almost totally.
After a week of siege Lazar approached the gates of the city under truce. Riding forward alone he addressed the city commander Hamabi al Said: “I call on you to surrender this city and hand yourselves to the charitable mercy of the Sacred Office.” Hamabi who had as many men as the Estalians appeared to have, plus the advantage of 30-foot high walls simply laughed and waved Lazar away. Lazar was unperturbed. “Unbeliever. If you will not surrender the city then you have waived the right to mercy. I ask you then to release any who will accept the mercy of the Infanta by sundown today.” Hamabi shrugged his shoulders, “ my fine adversary, no-one is kept within the city against their will. I will pass your message throughout the city.”
b1. As the sun set, a few hundred people left the sally port of the main gate. They walked uncertainly towards the Estalian lines where they were taken into the care of the Inquisition.
Hamabi arose just before dawn, something just wasn’t right, his instincts as a survivor of battles and court intrigue brought him to the battlements facing west to the Estalian lines. He looked out at the Estalian camp. The sun was rising and he noticed that dark shadows covered the camp and the land beyond. But the shadows were moving, towards the city and the rising sun. “Sound the alarm. We are under attack!”
At dawn an enormous ragged horde ran towards the walls of Magritta carrying sturdy scaling ladders and improvised weapons. Led and urged on by fanatical Inquisitors the people of the surrounding countryside sought revenge for hundreds of years of exploitation and persecution. Whipped up by a religious frenzy the horde ignored the hundreds falling to the arrows and catapults of the defenders. Like a tidal wave they crashed against the walls and surged up the ladders while the defenders poured boiling water and burning oil on the attackers. The regular troops of Estalia stayed just out of range of the defenders weapons. Hour after hour the attackers, continuously reinforced by fresh fanatics, surged against the walls. Thousands of bodies littered the ground and the defenders were tiring and running low on ammunition.
Lazar looked at the latest wave of attackers, they were tiring and losing the enthusiasm for the attack. Then he saw what he was looking for, near the main gate half a dozen ladders stood while hundreds of ragged attackers surged onto the battlements. The defenders were cutting down dozens but they were making ground. Lazar stood in his stirrups and turned to the trumpeter at his side, “sound the attack and may the Infanta Isolde guide and protect us!”
As the fanatical attackers finally gained a foothold on the walls, the Estalian army charged forward and grabbing the ladders from the fallen hurled themselves onto the battlements. The fresh and well-armed troops quickly overcame the weary defenders and drove them into the town. The surviving fanatics followed closely behind the regular troops breaking into the houses and shops and slaughtering anyone they found. The streets ran with blood and bodies hung from windows and lay hacked apart in the gutters. The army was out of control and fires started to break out in the poorer parts of the city. The main gates were opened and the bulk of the attackers poured into the town led by Lazar himself. “No quarter, no mercy!” he cried.
Hamabi was tired and wounded in a dozen places. He led what was left of his men in a rearguard trying to protect the thousands of terrified inhabitants fleeing towards the east gate. This opened onto the road to Grenada and the Estalians were not yet attacking from the east. Determined to give these people a chance of survival, Hamabi halted his weary men at the gate determined to sell their lives dearly.
The survivors of Magritta, some 4-5,000 terrified weary people were now several miles from Magritta, which they could see burning behind them. They were approaching a rise in the road where it crested a small hill. On the road ahead they could see a lone horseman.
Don Hernando de Vedia sat on his black warhorse looking at the mob of unbelievers before him. While his brother Lazar was taking the city Hernando had led the elite of the Inquisition to the east, to make sure no enemies of the Sacred Office escaped. He turned in his saddle and looked back to his men on the reverse slope of the hill. The Brethren of the Infanta sat silently on their black warhorses and waited for the signal. This was the hand picked elite trained to a high pitch and equipped with the best armor and weapons money could buy. On the signal they galloped over the hill without battle cries or trumpet calls and fell on the helpless refugees.
It was several days before Fernando received word of the sacking of Magritta. Taking his closest followers Fernando rushed to the city and long before they arrived they could see the plumes of black oily smoke rising into the air.
The hooves of his horses echoed in the empty streets, the stench of death overwhelming. Only a small garrison was in place, which was in no position to clean up the city. Angry and frustrated he galloped out of Magritta towards Grenada. A few miles from the city the plain was covered by thousands of dead bodies all of which seemed to have been slain by lances or ridden down. He rode hard for Grenada where he arrived the next day. To his surprise the city seemed untouched with the flag of Estalia flying at all the gates and towers. On a low hill before the town he could see dozens of blackened stakes with bodies hanging from them, a single tent stood at the base of the hill: black with the white standard of the Inquisition flying before it. He dismounted before the tent and rushed inside, Tomas knelt alone in meditation. Before Fernando could speak Tomas rose and looked directly into the eyes of his king. “The great work is done. You are the Savior of Estalia, live long Fernando the Great, High King of Estalia.” Fernando saw the fervor and devotion in Tomas’ eyes, sighed to himself and said, “Thank you my friend.” They walked together towards the beautiful city of their enemy.
The Last of the Arabs
The population of Grenada had heard of the blood soaked fanatic army heading it towards it and fled east to the mountains or south by sea to Araby leaving their wealth behind. Only a few stragglers were found and executed by the Inquisition. In this way one of the most elegant cities in the world was saved from destruction, however fire would have cleansed the evil lurking in dark towers and sewers, which would plague the city from then on.
Rebirth of a Nation
Later that year Fernando and Isabelle married, combining the ancient realms of Castilla and Aragona, which secured the future of the kingdom of Estalia. Tomas spent the rest of his life building the Inquisition into every walk of life. When Tomas died in 2091, Magritta was rebuilt and the wealth of the nation restored under the direction of the Inquisition. However the only contact with the outside world was through the ports of Bilbao, Magritta and Grenada where foreigners were banned from leaving the walled cities and forced to live in the Foreign Quarter of each city watched closely by the tireless agents of the Sacred Office. Foreigners who leave the city are seldom seen again.
In 400 years Estalia has changed little from Tomas’ day. The current high king, Rodrigo X, is a stern and just ruler interested in furthering the power and influence of Estalia without changing the way of life of his people. To this end he has sponsored an investment in exploration particularly into the lands of Lustria. The current Grand Inquisitor, Hernando de Vria, is a true “son” of Tomas, keen on maintaining the security of the nation and destroying the enemies of the faith. Though no invader has attempted a large-scale invasion since the destruction of Magritta, there are many who envy the wealth and stability of Estalia.
However Estalia’s long coastline makes it vulnerable to raids by all the seaborne races, and the old enemies, the Undead and Skaven, sally out from their lairs every few years. This guarantees that the armies of Estalia are well established and hardened in battle. The city of Grenada is particularly plagued by Undead and the activities of Araby and Chaos sympathizers.
Juan de Zorkana brushed his hands as the last stone was placed. Once the grass and shrubs grew back no one would be able to see the last resting place of his master. He and his 4 helpers would stay in the mountains until they died. No one would know the last resting place of Tomas the Pure as he lay with the ancient dwarf rune smith. One day, in time of great need, this place would be found again. For Tomas had removed only a small portion of the horde.