Alkamar has a long and dignified history stretching back to the dawn of time. There are some historians and archeologists who theorize that Alkamar was the homeland of the ferrets, pointing to the large and disproportionate number of ferret skeletons discovered at ancient burial sites, though evidence is inconclusive. It is entirely possible that, as with the Vulpinsula, the continent of Alkamar played host to migrating furo erectus who reached the island using rudimentary sailing technology.
Cultural Development and TradeEdit
The Alkamarian continent, separated by a central mountain range that makes direct passage between the two sides hazardous, was originally divided into a multitude of feudal kingdoms derived from tribal associations. Across the course of time, these feudal lords were eventually subjugated under two houses: the house of Miklar and the house of Alkamar, reigning over the west and east respectively. Miklar, being subject to harsh storms rolling in off the Sea of Calamities and buffeted off the coast of the Mysterious Sahthern Continent, developed a hardy sense of self-reliance and independence, priding themselves on their ability to survive any disaster and rebuild. Alkamar, safe behind the shelter of the Oldein Mountains and nestled in the fertile plains, developed a rich agrarian society and invested in culture and the arts.
To this day, 10th century Alkamarian murals are hailed as the finest examples of the artistic potential of stucco as a medium.
To some extent, trade between Miklar and Alkamar has always existed, though the difficult terrain of the Oldein Mountains makes the journey perilous. It was only in 1354 that a steady trade route was formed through the Perutian Valley, a green basin in the middle of the mountain range accessible only through narrow passes on either side located at 5,000 feet above sea level. King Boscod IV of Alkamar achieved renown for the construction of the Perutian Pass, a narrow passage between two mountains carved at sea level to facilitate easy access to the Valley. Historians still debate the techniques using in creating the 2,500 foot long, mile deep crevice, as many assert that the passageway should be unsustainable; nevertheless, it remains in operation today.
History of AlkamarEdit
The War of 1382Edit
Alkamarian expansion into the Valley and the subsequent development of towns and cities in the former buffer zone between the two kingdoms provoked ire in the Miklarian Court of Thanes, who saw the expansion as a prelude to war. To head off the threat of a military Alkamar, in 1382 the Thanes united their armies and marched through the Oldein Pass, intending to sweep through the valley and destroy the Perutian Pass. The Miklarians did not expect Alkamar to have a dedicated system of communication utilizing messengers running on foot and swapping bags in order to keep a message running at all hours; for that reason, the Miklarians were not prepared for an Alkamarian ambush just inside the Perutian Pass, whereby pots of steaming oil were poured down on the troops from all sides. The death toll was unimaginable; historians estimate that 1,000 troops were caught in the rain of boiling lava, and the rest of the 10,000 strong attack force was unprepared for the rain of arrows from above the pass that followed. The surviving troops were disorganized and unable to resist the swarm of Alkamarian troops that poured through the pass, stepping over the carpet of bodies laid out for them. For this reason, the Alkamarian Army still refers to an egregious tactical error as ‘making a Miklarian carpet’.
The Alkamarian response to the Miklarian attack was swift and brutal. An invasion force of 30,000 was launched by sea, sweeping to the north and south of the island and invading from both sides. The remainder of the Alkamarian Army swarmed over the Oldein Pass and spilled over into Miklar, burning entire villages in punishment. Rather than directly assault the fortified cities, the Alkamarian army pillaged the countryside, destroying every farm and fishery in Miklar; they then withdrew to a safe distance from the cities and waited. Kept well-fed by supply lines from Alkamar and operating on a strategy of attacking anyone who attempted to enter or exit the cities, the Alkamarian Army was able to starve Thane after Thane into submission until at last, the High Thane himself surrendered the city of Miklar to Alkamarian forces in 1394.
As soon as the surrender was total, King Docald I of Alkamar travelled personally to review the acquired territory. He ordered a sweeping set of reforms designed to restore the territory, putting the present army to work on constructing bridges, mills, and mines to restore the local economy. The Thanes were allowed to keep their titles, but were relocated to Alkamar, given small country estates far from where they could cause trouble. In their place, new Dons were chosen from the local elite, carefully selected to favor those who had neither made enemies among the old system nor were outwardly resistant to Alkamarian rule. In his final, bold move, Docald I issued the Dominion Edict, stating that the former kingdoms of Miklar and Alkamar would be therefore be part of the Alkamarian Dominion. Moreover, he ingrained in the document a stipulation that would prevent future dissent from Miklar: that every King of Alkamar would be required to marry a Miklarian. This institutionalized system of making the throne more Miklarian, combined with the high rate of intermarriage between Alkamarian troops and Miklarian natives, led to the end of a distinct Miklarian or Alkamarian identity, save for isolated pockets of separatists.
The Seven Year Revolt (1582-1589)Edit
The united Alkamarian Dominion reigned over the continent for another two centuries, its power uninterrupted save for a brief spell between 1582 and 1589, when Miklarian separatists incited a bloody revolution against the Alkamarian throne. Due to the creation of an inclined path to facilitate easy travel through the Oldein Pass and the establishment of the fortress of Bruschard guarding the Perutian Pass, the rebellion was unable to hold the Perutian Valley against the incoming Alkamarian troops; combined with reinforcements arriving by sea, the rebellion was eventually forced to flee to the northern Oldein Mountains, where a small community of ‘pure’ Miklarians still survives in isolation.
End of Miklarian Line (1594)Edit
In 1594, following the death of the last Alkamarian king of Miklarian bloodline, the Dominion was thrown into brief chaos as the future of the throne appeared uncertain. Amidst renewed calls for Miklarian independence and fervent pleas to maintain the Dominion, the Conference of Ritan was convened in the central city of the Perutian Valley. Representatives of every city in the Dominion met to discuss the future of the monarchy and the country. Prime among the grievances presented was the strict marriage restrictions placed on the royal family, which effectively barred Alkamarian blood from entering the kingship. The Miklarian Dons threatened to leave the conference if the restrictions were lifted, as they believed it would remove the one assurance of Miklarian equality in the Dominion. Similarly contested was the ranking of the army, which overwhelmingly favored Alkamarians, and the hereditary title of the Thanes, who had become a drain on the Dominion’s finances.
The end result of the conference was the Ritan Concordat, which dramatically altered the system of government. A Grand Council, staffed by appointed representatives of the Miklarian and Alkamarian Dons, was established to serve as a legislative check against the new office of the Emperor. The Emperor was to be directly chosen by the Grand Council from among the Thanes and confirmed by the Dons. The Thanes were allowed to marry as they pleased, but only from among the commoners, and the marriage required the approval of the Grand Council. The army was reformed to create twelve battalions loyal to the Dons; from among the generals of these battalions, a Grand General was appointed by the Emperor and confirmed by the Grand Council.
The new system of balances between the hereditary, citywide, and national governments brought a new stability to Alkamar, enabling it to look beyond its own borders to the rest of the world. Alkamar soon conquered the Valles Mensa isles, keeping them as a territory. Trade relations were soon established with the southern country of Felmar and with the eastern nations. Buoyed by its large military and by a series of coastal fortresses to defend against sea attack, Alkamar remained without conflict with the rest of the world until the late 17th century, when it went to war with a small island nation called the Vulpine Imperium.
Relations with the ImperiumEdit
First Contact (1524)Edit
First contact with the nation of Alkamar occurred in the year of our Grace 1524, on a cold and frosty winter's day. This was the dark days, before Gyruff Misser had caught his first gull and decided to train it to deliver his mail rather than boil it in a stew. Letters were still delivered by paw, usually by poorly-paid mailbeasts with a knack for losing absolutely anything important.
One particular mailbeast was trudging his way across the frozen landscape of an unidentifiable land. He carried in his bags urgent reports from Imperial scouts saying that the Salvakins (a truly unpleasant nation of poisonous toads, now extinct) was marshaling its forces against the Imperium. His ship had been destroyed in an ambush, he himself having only barely escaped in a longboat. Now he traveled by foot an unknown land, trying to reach the High Ruler (the previous title of his Grace the Emperor, back in the days before he saw fit to subjugate all the lords of the Vulpine Isles to his will) and warn him of this impending attack.
Suddenly, through the blinding snowstorm, he saw a warm light bobbing in the wind. Making his way to it, he stumbled upon a solitary soldier standing guard at a crossroads. For a long time he looked at the guard. For an equally long time the guard looked back at him. Finally, the mailbeast asked the guard if he knew the way to Amarone.
The guard replied that he didn't.
The mailbeast asked if in that case he might be pointed in the direction of the nearest city.
The guard, being suspicious of foreigners travelling through snowstorms asking for places he'd never heard of, deliberately pointed down the wrong road.
The mailbeast thanked him for his trouble and continued on. By a stroke of luck, the very road the guard had chosen in order to mislead the visitor led directly to a port town, where the mailbeast was able to buy passage to the Vulpinsula. He arrived in time for the Army to be rallied and the Salvakins defeated in a long, bloody, costly, and ultimately unremarkable war.
Acceptance (1641- 1688)Edit
For over a century the Vulpine Realm (as the Imperium was titled before the Emperor saw fit to rename it) and the Alkamarian Dominion seemed content to be vaguely aware of the other's existence while preferring to ignore each other all the same. It was only in 1641 that, after several decades of successful, privately-operated trade between the young Imperium and the newly reformed Alkamarian Empire, the two nations saw fit to acknowledge each other with a brief nodding of the head as they sipped their tea. Their relationship gradually grew cordial enough that in 1667, the two nations agreed to permit each other an embassy in their capitals so long as they promised to be polite, to not make any loud noise, and to use their own outhouse rather than stink up the local ones.
First Alkamarian War (1688-1692)Edit
By the year 1688, the relationship between the Imperium and Alkamar was cordial enough that the respective Emperors no longer asked "Who?" when the other power was brought up in conversation. In the midst of this extremely close bond between the two powers, a party invitation was sent by the Alkamarian Emperor to the Vulpine ambassador (a rather despised second cousin had just died, leaving open a seat between a chronically boring duke and a duchess who had died a year ago but was already so wasted and terrible-smelling that no one had yet learned the difference). At this party, the merriment was reportedly so great that the Royal Office of the Lost and the Found spent a week trying to return forgotten parasols, mirrors, coats, shoes, fans, fur-pins, hats, jewelry, jewelry boxes, jewelry chests, carriage wheels, carriages, spouses and small children to their proper owners. When all the damage was indeed repaired, one single item remained: a male's toupee of a remarkably ugly shade of red.
The Imperial ambassador, being the only beast who appeared to have not lost something at the party, was immediately summoned and, in the Alkamarian Emperor's presence, was presented with the toupee. To the shock of all, the ambassador firmly denied ownership of the toupee. When the Emperor insisted that the toupee must indeed be his, the ambassador remained obstinate, swearing that he had no prior association to the headpiece. The Emperor, enraged at this refusal, presented the ambassador with an ultimatum: either accept the headpiece or be executed.
Naturally, the Ambassador was executed. This really didn't bother anyone in Amarone, including the Emperor, who had picked him as ambassador because the beast bored him to no end and thus had to be placed as far away as possible. Indeed, the whole situation might have blown over had not a startling tragedy occurred: the Vulpine Empress's favorite bonnet suddenly went missing.
After imprisoning everybeast who asked, "Well, did you look behind the dresser?", the Emperor and Empress sat down and rationally came to realize that the theft of the bonnet must have been an Alkamarian act of terror. They immediately sent word to the Alkamarian Court, demanding the immediate return of the bonnet without further terms. The Alkamarian Court furiously responded that they didn't have any bonnet, though they did have a toupee that was still missing an owner. The Vulpinsulan royalty screamed that they didn't want nor need a toupee, and that if the bonnet was not returned within a fortnight it would be taken as a provocation to war. Alkamar responded by writing their message on the boards of a freshly-sunk Imperial patrol vessel.
Thus, a four-year war that cost the lives of a hundred thousand Imperial soldiers was begun for the sake of a toupee and a bonnet. The cause of the war was popularized by the folk song "Me Bonny Lost Bonnet" written by John "Anonymous" Smith, a private in the First Alkamarian War who failed to perform any noteworthy event on the battlefield, but authored a great number of poems, songs, and sayings on the subject. Today the bonnet (discovered in 1701 lurking behind the now-deceased Empress's dresser) sits on display in the Ministry of War's Museum of Historical Things alongside the toupee, which has been positively identified as having belonged to the year-old corpse of the wasted Alkamarian duchess.
Course of the First Alkamarian WarEdit
Alkamar had already subjugated Valles Mensa beforehand and only started developing it as a military stronghold once the war actually broke out. They had time to invade and seize Sampetra before the Imperium's navy was mobilized. The navy barely got to Akef ahead of its invasion and wound up being stuck in a full week of naval siege, with dawn-to-dusk naval battles as reinforcements from both sides continued to flood in everyday. This was one of the bloodiest battles in Imperial history, and historians still debate whether or not the Imperium actually won so much as they outlasted the Alkamarian assault. It is also notable for being the largest naval engagement in the First War; the rest of the naval battles were minor skirmishes meant to clear the way for a ground assault.
The invasion of Sampetra by the Imperial Army was the next major engagement. The Army established a beachhead on the northwestern part of the island and used this as a staging ground for pitched battles against Alkamarian forces. Here a peculiarity of war emerged: the sun on Sampetra was so intense around midday that many soldiers would, in the midst of battle, drop dead from the heat. The casualties from heat exposure within the first week actually exceeded the number of those killed in the rest of the Battle of Sampetra. This directly led to the Sampetran Agreement, a new rule of battle enforced by both the Alkamarian and Imperial army command that explicitly forbade warfare on Sampetra from the hours of noon to three in the afternoon. This rule is still on the books in both countries and has been honored through all three wars.
Eventually, however, the Imperial Army gained enough ground to take the port town on Sampetra and push the Alkamarian Army back to the Palace of Ublaz. Despite being placed under siege and cut off from all supplies, the Alkamarians managed to hold out until the end of the war, which came three years later. Though it has never been confirmed, some soldiers' journals suggest that this was due to both sides assuming after a year of siege that the Alkamarians were simply going to stay cooped up in the Palace, and thus there was no point in even trying to fight it out anymore. Some reports even suggest that the Alkamarians hosted regular Twenny-Wah nights, at which they were so good that they could win an entire month's rations in one night. Of course, this is all just speculation, though there remains the curious matter of the five thousand pounds of Imperial rations discovered in the palace storehouses after the Alkamarian withdrawal.
Valles Mensa was the hardest island to take due to a massive Alkamarian base constructed there during the first year of the war. The jungle terrain also made mapping and navigation very tricky, and more than one platoon got lost among the trees and turned up a week later on the opposite side of the island. In fact, several war historians have theorized, based on official war maps, that for two months Imperial and Alkamarian forces wound up marching right past each other, unaware that they were both going in the wrong direction. It was perhaps for this reason that it took the Imperials three months to discover the location of the Alkamarian fortress, and another month to march their forces the two miles to its location. From there on, the fighting was fairly straightforward, and the Imperium took the fortress in another three weeks.
The invasion of the Alkamarian continent would prove to be the bloodiest stage of the war, costing well over 50,000 Imperial lives. The brunt of the casualties was due to Imperial unfamiliarity with the geography and fortifications of Alkamar, which led to many poor strategic decisions on the part of the Imperial Command. The Imperial Army attempted to circle Miklar to reach Alkamar, but was rebuffed by a series of strong costal forts and high cliffs that made an Alkamarian landing impossible. Command then decided to invade Miklar from the north, near the edge of the Oldein Mountains, and march along the mountain ridge to the Oldein Pass and the Perutian Valley. Imperial Command expected that they would be hailed as liberators by the Miklarians; for that reason, they were unprepared for the verocity of the Milkarian response, both from the six armies of the Miklarian Dons and from the Miklarian populace at large. Since the signing of the Ritan Concordat, Miklarians had become fervently nationalistic; for that reason, the Imperial forces met no end of resistance from roving groups of Miklarian militias employing guerilla tactics, attacking Imperial caravans and camps from the mountains at night. These tactics would later lead to the development of Imperial ranger units trained to use difficult terrain and psychological warfare.
The constant disruption of the supply chain left many Imperial battalions without food or recent orders. Operating on their initial command, waves of Imperial soldiers filed into the Perutian Valley, only to be cut down by soldiers stationed at the city of Ritat and the fortress of Bruschard. Eventually the Imperial Army adapted its tactics and decided to barricade the Oldein Pass and blockade the ports of Miklar, making passage between the two sides untennable; Imperial naval superiority ensured that Alkamarian troop barges, which were slow and ill-equipped for naval combat, were unable to bolster the Miklarian resistance.
After two years of continuous warfare and staggering casualties, the Imperium made an offer through the Felmarian Embassy to negotiate peace with Alkamar. Representatives of the Imperium met with the Grand General of Alkamar in Ritan on Soggus 14th, 1692. Over the course of two weeks, the two sides negotiated a peace treaty, which was signed on Merry 1st, 1692. The terms included an Imperial withdrawal from Miklar, the return of Valles Mensa to Alkamarian control, the transfer of Sampetra to Imperial control, and the payment of 50,000 gilders from the Alkamarian treasury to the Imperium for 'clerical fees'. On Bugs 10th, 1692, the Imperium completed its hasty withdrawal from Alkamarian territory, and by Humidor the islands were ceded to their respective powers.
Preparing for the Next WarEdit
From the end of the First Alkamarian War, the Imperial Command operated under the steadfast assumption that another war with Alkamar was inevitable. This predicated many sweeping changes in the structure of the Imperial military, including the vast buildup of the Imperial Navy. Veteran commanders of the First Alkamarian War were gathered at the Imperial Academy in Amarone and carefully interviewed regarding Alkamarian terrain, defenses, and tactics. From this assembled information, tacticians composed the Sampetra Plan, a doctrine which would govern Imperial military strategy for the next three decades.
The hallmark of the Sampetra Plan was based on the success of Imperial naval vessels in blockading the ports of Miklar and fending off the clumsy attacks of Alkamarian frigates. The Imperial Navy saw the rapid commission of new sloops, frigates, and galleons, including the commission of the first Man-of-War, the Mar'kan's Glory, which would serve as the flagship of the Imperium until its mutiny and theft in 1727. The new defense policy of the Imperium focused not on military garrisons, but on a web of naval patrols throughout the outer islands. Each ship carried a specially trained Missertross Gull to be released in the event of enemy contact; this gull would then fly toward the nearest Imperial island or vessel and trigger a message relay bound for Amarone.
The tactics of the Imperial Army were also overhauled, much to the ire and humiliation of many traditionalists in the command structure. One of the greatest changes was the addition of rough terrain combat training aimed at correcting the Imperial unfamiliarity with uneven terrain which had cost so many lives in the previous war. An extreme extension of this program was the commissioning of the 108th Battalion, a new unit of rangers trained to utilize the guerilla techniques which Miklarian militias had used to great effect. The four platoons of the 108th were trained to be inserted into Miklar via a costal embarkation and operate independently, without a supply chain or connection to the chain of command. They would hide in the mountains, utilizing intense survival training to find their own food and monitor the activities of the Alkamarian military. Their task was to attack the supply caravans keeping the Alkamarian Army fed, strike at unfortified or undefended positions, and conduct counter-operations against Miklarian guerillas. The 108th proved to be one of the most successful programs of the Sampetra Plan and was instrumental in the course of the Second Alkamarian War.
A development independent to the Sampetra Plan was the expansion of the Ministry of Misanthropy to include the Foreign Intelligence Office. For the first time, Imperial spies were trained in the Alkamarian and Miklarian languages and inserted into Alkamar as sleeper agents. Though they operated independently of the Ministry of War, these agents proved to be vital in gathering intelligence on the ground and relaying it to the invasion force, including to the 108th. This was the first instance of targeted espionage being used in an Imperial war effort. The program was not publicly acknowledged until 1726, when retired spy Vilas Nester was awarded the Milarkian Cross by Emperor Mar'kan II. The current number and identities of agents deployed overseas is a state secret, but many scholars conservatively estimate that there are over two hundred deep-cover Imperial spies operating worldwide, mostly in Alkamar and Fyador.
The Second Alkamarian War (1704-1713)Edit
Conflict with Alkamar finally erupted in 1704, when an Alkamarian sloop was caught deep inside Imperial waters. The crew burned all the ship's documents before the ship could be boarded, and when questioned furiously by the Imperial Ambassador, the Alkamarian Council refused to account for their vessel's actions. Imperial Command presumed the vessel to be a scout for a larger invasion force, and immediately mobilized the Imperial Navy to the Sea of Calamities.