History of Midgard
A single word – that is all it took to completely change the course of history. One word brought a civilization, even the gods, to their knees. It was the coming of age of Midgard, a chance for Middle Earth to join the other eight worlds as an equal. No longer was it just a colony and a fun place for giants, gods, elves, and dwarves to have their quaint little adventures. The innocence had been lost, but adulthood had finally been achieved.
At that last moment, Sigurd stood opposite the Winter Queen. Her spells exhausted, her troops scattered, only her coven and Loki stood at her side. There was a brittle calmness that overtook them, there atop her tower. Thor stood at Sigurd's side, the only god to heed the summons, along with thirty other stout warriors. Every last one of them was a hero many times over – every last one of them was dying on their feet. But the Valkyries held back long enough to allow the battle to finish. This war had been more costly than anyone ever imagined, but no one, not even the gods, doubted the outcome. This was not Ragnorak, there were no signs that it should be. It was another chance for the skalds to sing a song about how light always triumphs over the darkness. Sigurd stepped forward and announced the conditions for the Queen of the North's surrender. Her defiant gaze answered. He thrust out his sword to deal the final blow when he caught something else in her eye; something human, something terrifying. He hesitated, confused, but she flung herself onto his outstretched blade. Reality bent and twisted around him. He screamed while she, gazing up into the heavens, spoke.
The devastation wreaked by that single word was total. Every living being within eyesight of the tower was obliterated where they stood. The world tree shook. Oceans and earth alike within hundreds of miles of the epicentre heaved under the raging sky like a flag in a hurricane. The fragile rainbow bridge which connected Midgard and Asgard shattered. The gods were afraid. Not only had the gods physically felt the cataclysmic events unfolding, but Odin had lost his two sons. Worse yet, the inhabitants of Asgard realized with terror that with the deaths of the two gods, the prophecies surrounding Ragnorak had been undone. For the first time, uncertainty crept into their immeasurably long lives. Odin's lament fuelled the winter storms that ensued.
The curse brought other, less immediate, effects to the inhabitants of Midgard. The destruction and loss of their mightiest heroes plunged Middle Earth into a dark period of savagery. Their patron gods became withdrawn and wary of the newfound status of the peoples of Midgard. In response, many of the people turned their backs on the gods and sought to rebuild their civilization without superstition, fear, and dependence. Two other developments also grabbed the attentions of Midgardians. Magic had suddenly become uncontrollable. Sorcerers, wizards, and Skalds attempted in vain to regain their mastery, only to discover that it lay beyond their reach. Terrible destruction and death (often their own) followed in the wake of these practitioners of the arcane arts. A true witch hunt began and ended with the virtual extermination of their kind. Secondly, a new threat appeared in the West. A dark race, bent on destruction, sprung up almost overnight and in vast numbers, razing and pillaging the cities of man. They were called orcs and they were a cruel and violent race. With enemies on every side and friends nowhere to be found, civilization teetered on the brink of disaster.
Out of these turbulent times arose one of the greatest figures of the Age of Winter. His name was Otrygg the Keen and he was a chieftain of a southern clan. Early in his career he led several successful campaigns against the orcish horde and cemented alliances with the factious neighbouring clans. Without a doubt, he was the greatest military strategist of his time. He abandoned the honour-bound traditions of his ancestors and became a student of the science of war. He introduced heavy cavalry, pikemen, and archers to the ranks of his army. His men were disciplined and thoroughly trained in the art of war. More importantly than his lifetime accomplishments was the esteem that he held with his generals and troops and the hope that he inspired in the haggard and harassed people of Midgard. Upon his death, Otrygg's man-at-arms was declared his successor. In this way, the federation of clans grew with very few interruptions and secessions over the better part of a century. In this time, the federation of clans expanded and pushed back the orcish armies, dealing them a succession of bloody defeats. Many clans joined the federation, and those that rose up against it were ground up under the heels of this immense war machine. However, when a semblance of stability arose in the south, the darker sides of the human spirit rose up to destroy it. Power-hungry generals split the federation along clan lines and infighting nearly undid Otrygg's dream. The orcs, seeing a weakness in their foes, launched a desperate and fearsome attack against the East. The brokenness of the federation was not yet deep enough, and they rallied behind their chieftain and all but exterminated the orcish race. In the aftermath of the bloody confrontation, an uneasy peace was reached. The federation was finished, for sure, but the early workings of a republic were in place. The people of the South chose Wodensheim to be their state capital, as a symbol of the new age of humans arising out of the turbulent past.
The city of Wodensheim, one of the great cities of the golden age, had lay in ruin. Despite the fact that it sustained very little damage from the effects of the Winter Queen's curse, the city was the hardest hit by unpredictable magic. Spells gone awry levelled entire blocks and creatures, summoned from beyond the walls of Midgard and some even from beyond the nine worlds, tormented the poor citizens of Wodensheim. Within a year of the great cataclysm, the city was virtually a ghost town. The new republic began the long process of rebuilding the city into a glorious monument to civilization. The republic grew and grew until it swallowed up almost all of the southern lands of Midgard. Immense tracks of land, for hundreds of miles around the city were cleared and irrigated for farmland to support the new capital. Other cities sprang up in the South and a trading network emerged. The first secular society of Midgard flourished. Landowners were protected by state military. The city itself increased in population and culture over many centuries of prosperity. Political groups converted temples into clubhouses. It was a great modern metropolis, teeming with people, decadence, and corruption. Politicians and secret societies ruled. No show was too opulent, and no vice was too degrading. Underneath the new city, lay the ruins of the old. It is a labyrinth of tunnels, chambers, and catacombs underlying the streets and offering a safe haven for the unsavoury aspects of Wodensheim's night life. To be fair, civilization had its perks too – plumbing, democracy, a free market, culture, and peace to name a few. A perfect place for intrigue and lessons learned.
The other major power of the current age is the city states of Tiwanir. In the East, bordered by swamps, forests, mountains, and the sea, the clans of these fertile plains have remained almost unchanged since the White Queen's curse. Strong family clans continue to ally and war. The fierce ancient spirit of the Norsemen has lived on. Separated from the farmlands of Wodensheim by sea and swamp, the clans make frequent raids by longboat along the southern coasts. In response, Wodensheim amasses their armies to fight a never-ending battle against the clans. In truth, this war is a source of unification for the proud Norse spirit in the East, and also a chance for the various militias of Wodensheim to keep busy and not return home to conquer the city itself. The East is still an enchanted land, full of mystery and adventure. But beware, it is also a savage place that will test the resolve of any stout heart.