Laurentia's Final Winter Military Conflict in Aeteria - The Shattered World | World Anvil
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Laurentia's Final Winter

A day becomes of cold
where once there was spring,
night frost themes unfold
and days howl and sing.
For now is winter blowing
a song of night and frost,
for time to winter is going
when songs of summer are lost.
— Excerpt "Lament for Laurentia" by Peter. S. Quinn
Disaster is no stranger to the inhabitants of Aeteria. Many an island, nation and even civilisation has fallen to the forces of nature, their names long forgotten. Laurentia, however, is in another league altogether. A name held in infamy. A synonym for disaster. This is the tale of its last years, of Laurentia's final winter.  

Slow Rise (1200 - 1310 IE)

  Laurentia's demise started almost imperceptibly slow. Most never noticed it, the difficulties of pilots trying to include the continent's changed position into their approach vectors being the greatest crisis faced in those days. Even as the rise continued without pause, most were not concerned. Most experts believed that the changes would stop soon enough. Laurentia would prove them wrong.  

Accelaration (1310 - 1600 IE)

  The jumps Laurentia was making became increasingly noticeable as the 14th century went on. Centimetres became metres, and by 1372, the continent was rising nearly 5 metres a week. With this increase in speed came more severe consequences.   Navigation became more complicated as pilots, both Laurentian and foreign, could no longer use a familiar environment to orientate themselves. Communication and trade with Laurentia's many outposts in the lower layers of the atmosphere became increasingly difficult and cost-intensive. Outside forces, most notably the Albian kingdoms, took notice and began to meddle in Laurentia's nominal sphere of influence.   In 1421 IE, Ruthenian forces finally conquered the island of Rivaldia, its riches the goal of wars going back nearly 400 years. Times were good for the people taking advantage of the troubled continent. But, they too, would soon be faced with the consequences of this development. The fallout from Laurentia's rise was about to go global.  

Global Crisis (1435 - 1554 IE)

  Moving faster and faster, Laurentia had begun to enter higher echelons of the atmosphere. Climatic changes, barely noticeable at first, began to show themselves in earnest. The weather got colder, wetter and less predictable. Befor its ascend, Laurentia had been in a so-called "golden spot", an environment just right for a civilisation to flourish. It produced nearly half of the world's wheat, rye, spelt and potatoes, not to mention over a third of the world's beef and pork. Hundreds of millions depended on food grown in Laurentia. In 1441, for the first time in recorded history, Laurentia's harvests started to decline.  
Unrest at Home

Laurentia's people were the first to face the consequences. The Sacred Empire decided that its power and influence abroad were of the highest priority, and the export-focused economy continued to run unabated. Prices rose, and a population already dealing with frequent natural disasters began to feel abandoned by those in charge. Many found solace in faith, and the Imperial Cult became more popular than it had ever been before. Others chose violence, with mass riots and attacks on farms and warehouses becoming frighteningly common.
Chaos Abroad

Even the neglect of Laurentia's populace was not enough to compensate for the decline in harvests. Food exports plummeted. Additionally, the moving continent disrupted trade routes, communication lines and even wind patterns. Like ripples on a pond, the aftershocks of Laurentia's ascend wrought havoc across the northern hemisphere. Many nations, especially in the Old World, had become dependent on Laurentian food exports. Now, hunger drove unrest. Government ineptitude would do its part to create the foundations for the great Peasant Wars of later centuries.
Blissful are the ignorant. All signs pointed towards disaster, yet those fools continued to delude themselves. Kept thinking that Laurentia could endure.
— Alicia Gaventry, Albian Author

Dealing with Disaster (1554 - 1601 IE)

  While the wider world dealt with an economic crisis and large-scale internal revolt, Laurentia finally seemed able to catch its breath. It was slowing down. The continent would pass the Storm Belt but remain within the milder layers of the Ice Belt, a harsher but habitable area.   New crops and farming methods, including a mass focus on vast greenhouses, managed to stabilise the harvest. Disaster containment was prioritized, and the Imperial Cult intensified its efforts to pacify the populace. Laurentia, severely weakened it may have been, entered the 17th century with cautious optimism.  
Empire Reborn

Ironically, the crisis had helped strengthen the Sacred Empire and its institutions. Both the Imperial Cult and Army proved to be much better at helping the population than provincial governments. Power was increasingly focused on these two organisations, and by the early 1600s, Laurentia had turned into a military theocracy of sorts, life on the ground seeming like a mixture of covenant and army barracks.
Renewed Expansion

With stability at home returning, Laurentia began to look abroad. Taking advantage of the chaos it had accidentally caused, the empire's forces struck out to retake its former sphere of influence. Vicious conflicts erupted with Albians, Ruthenians, and Merowingians and by 1585 IE, the empire looked stronger than ever. Suffering at home was fought with exploitation abroad.
Cultural Shift

Spending centuries in flux does not just affect nations but the people within them as well. Laurentian culture grew harsher and more hostile towards outsiders. Once treasured rituals like the Grand Carnival, Passing of Ganea and Summer Solstice were abandoned. Nature was no longer seen as a thing of beauty but as something to be fought and contained. Faith in god and technology was all.
  Even as Laurentia closed in on the Storm Belt around 1605, the people remained confident. Few had the foresight to predict the chaos that was to come soon after.  

Apocalypse (1610 - 1660)

  While the Storm Belt did little damage to the Sacred Empire, it wrought havoc among the mountain valleys and highlands of central Laurentia. The Akureiny, Reykani, and Ovakaney, had always borne the consequences of Laurantia's ascend first and more severely than their lowland brethren.   Violent storms and the onset of even harsher winters as the continent entered the Ice Belt finally pushed them over the edge. En mass, they poured out of the highlands and quickly clashed with the Laurentians over food, housing and rights. Simmering hostility quickly escalated into open war and ethnic cleansing. Worse yet, Laurentia began to ascend again. Trade broke down. Old friends and enemies sought to pick Laurentia's fraying empire apart. The old Lion of the North was dying.  

Final Winter (1645-1660 IE)

  As Laurentia pushed further up into the Ice Belt, it grew increasingly hostile toward any form of life. Snow and ice came to dominate the land all year round. Many started to emigrate, despite government assurances that a series of Protected Settlements built around giant steam heaters would be their salvation.   When emigration threatened the construction of these cities, the Sacred Empire had the army cut off travel to and from Laurentia, effectively imprisoning anyone that hadn't escaped yet. Then, on the 22nd of March 1655 IE, news broke that the Protected Settlements were only meant to hold a fraction of the population.   Any semblance of order collapsed. The Laurentian Civil War was a bloodbath of unimaginable proportions. Millions fought one another, desperately trying to find either shelter or a way off the doomed continent. When in late 1659 IE, Supreme General Cedric Torrence, one of the nominal rulers of the Sacred Empire, fled on a government barge, it was clear that any hope was lost.   He would be the last to make it out. On the 1st of January 1660, Laurentia was engulfed in a titanic blizzard. Any contact with those still on it ceased. Winter had won.
In some way, there was a mercy to it. After nearly five centuries of torture, the continent and its people finally found release. Even if it came at the cold, dead hands of winter.
— Maria von Maserden, Teutans Historian
Start Date
~ 1200 IE
Ending Date
~ 1660 IE
Conflict Result
Abandonment of Laurentia. Mass migration of people into the western hemisphere. Global chaos.
Great Continent of the North   One of the largest Swarm Formations of the world, Laurentia dominated Aeteria's northern reaches since time immemorial. It even contains one of the few remaining oceans on the planet. At its centre, several mountain-chains tower over the landscape, their rugged valleys in stark contrast to the lush and fertile plains so characteristic of pre-Doom Laurentia.   The Sacred Empire   Since about 800 IE, the continent had been united under the banner of the Sacred Empire. Ruled by the supposed descendants of the Fire God Doreos, it had always been somewhat of a mix of theocracy and monarchy. Its borders technically never changed, as whenever the empire weakened, the various provinces would continue to rule in its name, just with much-increased powers.   Like its rulers, the empire itself had become more of an entity of faith. This endowed it with a great deal of flexibility. By 1400 IE, the ruling family had mostly been sidelined in favour of a triumvirate of senate, military and church. Hailed as one of the greatest realms ever to be seen in modern Aeteria, it continued to be counted among the Great Powers as late as 1620 IE.     A Fate worse than Death?   The mountain tribes streaming into the lowlands in 1610 IE were only subdued after nearly fifteen years of war. What came next was far worse, however, as the Laurentians had grown to hate them, seeing them as nothing more than animals to be slaughtered. Most were sold into slavery in Arcadia. Others were worked to death. Only one group managed to escape, saved by the Ruthenian Prince Vladimir of Arachanks. By 1627 IE, out of over two million, only a few thousand remained.     Salvation in Faith   Parts of Laurentian society had grown increasingly religious as the disaster went on, eventually forming a much stricter and more extreme version of the Imperial Cult. Disobedience was no longer tolerated. Abstinence from anything that did not benefit the Sacred Realm was demanded. Killing those that dared to question the endurance of the empire became duty. When the Civil War broke out, they started to form apocalyptic militias with the goal of "cleansing" Laurentian society of those that had, in their mind, brought their doom.     Salvation in Technology   The idea of Protected Settlements had been thrown around ever since it became apparent that Laurentia might end up in the Ice Belt. Large cities, either underground or in protected valleys, would be built around titanic steam heaters powered by everything from coal to biological waste.   Research into this direction was heavily funded, among other things helping create the vast greenhouses that characterised late-Laurentia. Between 1590 and 1655, the empire built over thirty such sites, carefully concealing that barely a fraction of the remaining population would find a place within them. It proved to be a hollow dream, all Protected Settlements failing in one way or another. The last, Winterholm, was discovered frozen and dead in late 1707 IE.   Aftermath   Laurentia's demise cut a hole into the global order that took over a century to close. Economic disruption was severe and the death throws of the former superpower, including the mass emigration of nearly five million people, would serve as the cause of conflicts up to a century after all life had ceased within it.   Now, Laurentia's long torment is finally over. Its ascend has finally come to a permanent halt. The old lion lies still, death the only master that rules the icy wastes and mountains. Located barely two kilometres below the Void Layer, the continent has become the target of pirates, scavengers, adventurers, and the outcast. Anyone that can find some use in the corpse of a dead civilisation.

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Cover image: by tom_mct


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