Recent History of Damark
Seventy years before our story began, incidence of psionics in human specimens was somewhere around .5% of the adult population and the numbers were even lower for the Elder Races. That all changed when dozens of meteor showers were observed over the whole of the continent of Damark. Every night for two weeks the sky rained fire, producing a remarkable quantity of adamantine, but it would take a generation for the greater consequences of this event to blossom. The correlation is not clearly understood but for ten years after the Starfall, one in ten humans born demonstrated some measure of psionic talent at puberty (the numbers have since leveled off at around 5% possessing at least a wild talent, about the same chance of an individual being left-handed or having red hair). These people were colloquially known as “minders” and quickly became a force to be reckoned with: a combination of envy, superstition and outright fear galvanized the psionic population and forced them to work together. Actual violence was rare but minders decided it was time to establish themselves officially as a distinct ethnic group.
A Bid for Power
This was significant because the Old Kingdom was but a dim shadow of its former glory. The royal court crumbled; nobles debated and schemed openly how best to carve up territory; and the ruling family, decadent and weakened from a succession of inept and unfortunate monarchs, found itself ceding more and more power to representative and regional governments. It is fair to say the Old Kingdom was a kingdom, then, in name only. The current ruler at that time, Martin the Blind, was nevertheless reluctant to recognize minders as a minority. He considered this an opportunity to reclaim some of his family’s lost honor and prestige, sensing a growing distrust and fear of this rabble (who many in the wider population perceived as mutants).
King Martin’s response was swift and a gross abuse of his power: not only were the minders not acknowledged as a political force (preventing them from taking positions of power in the government at any level under the throne), all property claimed by anyone possessing psionic powers was confiscated by the Crown and anyone who protested was thrown in prison. Walled “protection centers” to house the psionic population were constructed all over the kingdom. Seized property was redistributed back to the local communities, cushioning some of the tax hikes required to fund these outrageous expenditures. Many new jobs were created, too: workers, soldiers and the “neighborhood watch” were all placed on the King’s payroll. If one needed to be elected to his office, Martin would have likely won a lifetime appointment.
It should come as no surprise that approval of these social reforms was by no means unanimous. Those minders who thought better of protesting openly were forced underground, and those without psionic talent at all also faced persecution if identified as sympathizers. The Society of Freethinkers was established four years after the Reclamation (as the movement was called in loyalist propaganda) began, twenty years after the Starfall. Unlike other revolutions this one was not quiet and did not slowly lead up to armed conflict from civilized debate. Three days after the charter members established their mission statement, King Martin the Blind died mysteriously in his carriage on the way to the opening ceremony for Protection Center 04 (actually the first walled ghetto to be completed). The Mindwar had begun. The Elder Races largely stayed out of the war because it could not have had less to do with them. The dwarves and elves savagely defended their borders, the gnomes made themselves scarce and the halflings tried their best to avoid picking sides. Unthinkable atrocities were committed on both sides. Poisoned water supplies, political assassinations, sabotage, trafficking with denizens from the Lower Planes and random acts of terror were commonplace.
Twelve years ago the war reached a turning point: neither side really understood why they were fighting anymore, primarily because most of the principal agents from the early days had all been killed or locked up. Queen Issra (now an old crone in her seventies), Martin’s successor, decided it was time to move on and began the process for peaceful resolution with the Society. Her son, Martin VIII unfortunately did not see it that way and smothered the queen with a pillow in her sleep. Still, as hostilities winded down and agents moved behind the scenes on both sides, the Mindwar was drawing to a close. The conflict officially ended when after two months of surging loyalist aggression, the capital city was stormed and King Martin VIII’s blood was spilled in his own throne room. With his daughter only seven months old, the royal line’s authority in the Old Kingdom was effectively broken and the Mindwar died with a whimper.
The Society’s terms were simple: equality. With the monarchy broken, the six counties that once made up the kingdom were left to their own devices. The outer gates of the old capital, Castle Blackstar (during the Starfall over sixty years ago the city and the castle itself had been heavily bombarded and in fact a large meteorite still lay buried in the center of the throne room), now marked the end of royal jurisdiction; Seneschal Barnaby was appointed to rule in Queen Issra II’s stead.
That was six years ago. The decaying infrastructure between cities has further deteriorated with no central power or funds to repair it. Bandits from many former walks of life prey on the weak because no troops are left to patrol the roads. Increased evil humanoid and monstrous activity has been reported in all regions of the Old Kingdom. The end of the Mindwar brought relief to a beleaguered people but exposed many new problems. Border disputes among the six new nations, once held in check by an authoritarian hand, have in some places boiled over into armed clashes. The Elder Races likewise saw opportunity in this new power vacuum to reclaim ancestral lands or carve out new kingdoms for themselves.
Hostilities between minders and “norms” largely evaporated before the bloody conclusion of armed conflict. Even at the height of war the average commoner could never distinguish a psion from a sorcerer so most people have come to accept there are enough other reasons for bloodshed. The Mindwar is over.