Origins of Varushka

The Ushka were the first human inhabitants of this land; their legends claim that they were born, fully formed, from the soil and the shadows beneath the trees. Their villages clustered together in the wilderness, prey for wolves and worse, but they had an understanding of the cruel realities of life in the forest. They made bargains with stronger powers and thus survived, although they often paid a steep price for their survival.

The Vard were cousins to the Steinr, warlike and fierce; they came to Varushka meaning to claim the riches of the land for themselves. When the Ushka encountered the Vard, at first they tried to hide. When hiding failed they tried to make bargains with the Vard. When this too failed, they tried to fight the Vard. When the steel axes and steel shirts of the Vard meant they could not be defeated, they bowed their heads and were conquered. Rather than destroy them, the Vard offered the Ushka a place at their hearth and protection from the shadows beneath the trees. In return the Ushka shared their hard-won wisdom and helped them to survive the dangers that could not be defeated with steel alone.

Mourning Hollow
At Mourning Hollow, heroes of the Empire recover ancient Ushkan artefacts

With the wisdom of the Ushka and the prowess of the Vard, their ancestors defeated or bound many of the monstrous threats that lurked in the wilds. They spread slowly over the land, working together, until eventually the Vard and the Ushka were both gone, and in their place were the Varushkan people who partook of the strengths of both.

Not all the Ushka are gone, however. Early records say that many of the Ushka were assimilated but that the greatest of their sorcerers – who called themselves the “bargainers” – refused to bow their heads. When it became clear the Ushka were outmatched, these bargainers made terrible compacts with the Eternals of the Wasteland, the place Imperial scholars call the Realm of Winter. In return for dreadful sacrifices – and with the promise of more to come – these Volodny hid their hearts outside their bodies, becoming to all intents and purposes immortal. Kept alive by their hatred, and possessed of terrible hungers, they vowed collective vengeance against the Vard and those Ushka they now saw as collaborators.

A more in-depth document discussing the history of the Vard and the Ushka, and of early Varushka, can be found here.

Joining the Empire

In the time of the first Empress, the Volodny created a terrible champion, Alderei the Fair, who sought to conquer Varushka with the aid of their sorceries. In desperation, the Wise Ones convinced those Boyars who opposed Alderei to turn to the nascent Empire for help. Faced with few choices, many Boyars agreed to become part of the Empire, in return for aid against Alderei. With the strength of the Imperial forces, they were finally able to defeat the Volodny pawn.

Even while the war still raged, the foundations for the Empire were being laid. The nations had agreed to a set of laws and seemed confident that they could be enforced but the cautious Varushkans thought otherwise. They argued that the powerful of each nation could not be trusted to collect the taxes and enforce the law with an even hand. They would find themselves constantly torn by their allegiances to their countryfolk.

This caused outrage, but the Varushkans were adamant, and insisted that the Empire needed dedicated civil servants and judges, whose loyalty was to the Empire only and whose probity was above reproach. In the end each nation agreed to put forward a dozen individuals of good standing. The Imperial Civil Service was created and powerful enchantments were woven to ensure that the Magistrates and other civil servants would be loyal to the Empire and no other cause.

The Orc Rebellion

Of all the Imperial nations, Varushka is the one most associated in the popular consciousness with the enslavement of the orcs. The Orc Rebellion began in Varushka and the ringleader, Thrace, was a Varushkan slave. The Varushkans were the first people forced to confront the necessity of using their armies against the escaped orcs, and the last to accept the decision of Emperor Ahraz to recognise the orcs as people. Many Varushkans were ruined when the orcs were freed - barely two generations later the violence, and the sense of betrayal by their Imperial allies are still fresh in many minds.

Some Varushkans find the attitude of the other Imperial nations a little hard to swallow - they are quick to remind them that every nation other than the Freeborn kept orcs as slaves for centuries. The farms of the Marches, the fighting pits of the League, and the forests of Dawn were worked by orc slaves just as much as the Varushkan mines were. It is unjust, they argue, that Varushka is painted as the villain, the tyrant who oppressed the ancestors of the Imperial Orcs.

For many years there were Varushkans who nursed an undercurrent of bigotry against Imperial Orcs - sometimes overt, more often bubbling away beneath the surface. There was an unspoken belief that Ahraz had made a mistake and that the Imperial Orcs would inevitably seek revenge and turn on the Empire. Those fears slowly receded as the Imperial Orcs more than proved their loyalty, but there is often little love lost between the two nations and many Imperial Orcs avoid Varushka, except to make pilgrimages to the places where certain key events of the rebellion took place.

More Varushkan History

Further Reading

Core Brief

Additional Information