Równiny ("Flatland") began life as a small barony that split off from its home country following a peasant rebellion that had the backing of the knightly caste. Even in its earliest days Równiny was unusually martially adept, training every able-bodied man and woman in the basics of combat in order to defend their fledgeling nation from invasion. As time went on, they expanded their territory through conquest or revolution, spurring on secessions from other countries into Równiny territory on the promise of freedom from royal oppression.
The country was a representative democracy with elaborate and cautiously balanced tiers of governance. Its national identity was one of pious living for the good of the community over the good of kings or individuals, and for the glory of the gods over the glory of the self. The knightly caste was, in time, replaced by the most iconic representation of Równiny's philosophy, the Grasscutters, men and women of great skill in battle whose iconic weapon was the scythe, its blade set parallel to the haft, a weapon that was also and in fact primarily a tool. A Grasscutter's blade was symbolic of their position in Równiny: a force for the betterment of man, through the harvest and through defense of its people. A Grasscutter was not elevated above the people by use of a sword, a purpose-built and profoundly expensive weapon of war; they were of equal value to the people they protected, and unafraid, in fact glad, of the fact.
It is perhaps ironic that when the Flatlander territory of Górazima ("Winter Mountain") announced their intent to secede from the union in order to pursue its own interests, Równiny responded by marching in and attempting to beat some sense into them. Górazima was originally territory occupied by a native folk that refused to mine the mountains out of respect for their gods. Równiny, feeling that the Winter Mountain's people were incorrect in their assumptions of how divinity conducted itself, and which gods were the true gods, and most crucially the native Mountanfolk's characterization of the Star Maiden as a vast cosmic evil waiting to be awoken. Even the earliest attempts at mining were met with staggering piles of both practical and precious riches, significantly improving their mineral wealth.
The Równinian citizens of Górazima felt that its people were being exploited, forced to labor under cruel conditions and with little recompense in the name of "the people." Równiny, however, simply could not part with the Winter Mountains and its resources. Alas, Flatland soon found that it was effectively impossible to wage an effective war on the Winter Mountain. While a territory of significant size, its terrain was easily defended, and with an existing manufacturing base, Górazima could rapidly rearm and stock its soldiers, compared to the slower chain of supplies offered by Równiny. After several gruesome years of trying to make any sort of progress against Górazima, Równiny gave up, and the Winter Mountain became its own nation.
Over the next few decades, Równiny attempted to shore up its industrial base--among other things, instituting a thorough and impressive railway system with the capital city of North Star Landing at its heart. However, much of their raw materials had to be imported, at first from their neighbors and allies, and eventually from Górazima itself. Consequentially, its technology lagged behind its neighbors, leading them to fall back on sorcery to make up for the difference.
Górazima, in an effort to distance itself from its mother country, instituted a democratic monarchy and invented its own state religion, Social Harmony. Social Harmony may best be summed up by a Winter Mountain phrase: "All that is done is done in an hour." (Idiomatically, Góraziman natives understand that "an hour" means the concept of an hour; whatever joke one may come up with about literal hours, they have already heard, and will inform you that it wasn't funny the first time around.) Its foundations emphasize the wise use of one's time, and of working with others to ensure their time is used in the most fruitful ways.
While many outsiders, especially Równiny, find the strict structure of Social Harmony somewhat stifling, Górazima's people have surprising amounts of free time and time to pursue their own interests. All too familiar with the pains of mining and exploitative work practices, Górazima leads the world in worker's rights and doles out startlingly fair amounts of free time for its workers, particularly in backbreaking labor pools such as, for instance, mining. Continual cycling of labor force, including recruitment of the unemployed through what is referred to as "All Men Have Hours," helps ensure production does not fall short.
Over the next few generations Górazima expanded its own territories and, most crucially, attracted many scientists, engineers, and manufacturers from other countries. In time, it was easily a wealthier and more popular country than its parent, Równiny. King Krzysztof Kowalczyk, née Krzysztof Jez, and his wife, Queen Agnieska Kazimira Kowalczyk, extended an invitation to Równiny's leadership: let's rejoin, and we can combine our fortunes for the greater good of all of us.
Równiny flatly refused. They didn't trust Górazima to not take some kind of revenge for the Flatlanders' past refusal to let them secede, nor did they trust that Górazima could keep its religion and culture to itself. The religions were virtually incompatible in structure, other than their shared reverence for the Star Maiden, and the people were loath to associate with royalty, much less possibly be ruled by royaty again.
Several tense years passed. Trade between the two nations ground to a halt. Border incidents and skirmishes escalated. There was a brief, insufficient attempt at trying to smooth things over--and then a Równiny nationalist group carried out a terrorist attack on a Góraziman town near the border. Górazima took off the kid gloves and declared war.
While they did not anticipate getting into the war so soon, Równiny was more than ready to fight it--and soon found that they were utterly unprepared for the fury of modern warfare. In particular, their advantage in numbers, particularly in numbers of magi, was soon negated by their lack of defense against heavy armor and automatic weapon emplacements. Before long Górazima had established a front in Równiny, and from there, marched inward.
Key to Górazima's victory were the Trailblazer Corps, who subverted Równiny's rail system to ferry supplies from Górazima's plentiful factories. While a relatively rare occurrence, photographs of Górazima's "war trains"--bristling with Hailstorm heavy machine guns, transported tanks bolted down on open platforms ready to fire, and improvised armor plating bracing the engine and fuel car--became an iconic image of the war and Górazima's cocksure confidence.
That said, while Górazima's efforts were impressive, they were still not as fast or decisive as Górazima's citizens desired, and Równiny's people fought back with tremendous fury. Even with regular conquest of the train system, defensive checkpoints and militias stymied progress inward. Górazima was hesitant to bring to bear its most hideous weapons, the newly-discovered Boiler magi, for fear of damaging Równiny's agricultural basis beyond repair, and so simply weathered the losses.
While increasing the number of tanks dispatched proved difficult, surges in automatic weapon production proved a force multiplier for Winter Mountain soldiers, able to suppress and cut down even masses of Flatlander forces. Taticians and analysts took careful notes of how battles played out with these weapons in play, particularly the greatest weaknesses of the new weapon type: barrel cooling and changing, portability, and getting the right type of gun to the right emplacement. When automatic weapons failed to be effective, most often it was due to one of these three factors.
After a year and a half of advancing inward, a few key victories along the railways led the Winter Mountain to the doorstep of North Star Landing. This was where Równiny dispatched its greatest defensive weapon: Katsuro Nakahara, the world's most powerful mage and bearer of the most powerful sail mantis known, Worldtree. Hovering above the heart of the city as Góraziman forces approached, Katsuro enveloped its borders in a titanic whirlwind, cutting off all access.
Unfortunately for Równiny, the commander of the armor division that reached North Star Landing first was a mathematician, Nikifor Musil. After several hours of intense calculations and consultation with scouts, intel, and a handful of mantises assigned to defend the tanks, he moved his detachment to a tall hill outside of North Star Landing. With the mantis magi providing some stability in a particular region of the massive cyclone, Nikifor's fifteen tanks each fired at a specific angle into the maelstrom.
Five of the shots landed directly on the hovering Nakahara, destroying him and, via his link to the beast, Worldtree. The death of Worldtree resulted in the single largest "magi burst" in history. The defensive cyclone became a titanic windstorm that engulfed North Star Landing, killing almost all of its inhabitants, including the head of its government, as well as the elite division assigned to defend the city.
A photograph of a stoic Nikifor surveying the result of his firing solution made the front page of newspapers around the planet. As far as most of the world was concerned, the war was over, and Górazima was the victor.
This was not the case. The war dragged on for another year as the scattered but still functioning Flatlander army and militia groups fought to hold on to their nation as long as possible. Victory no longer mattered so much as making Górazima's win as bloody and unpleasant as possible. This culminated in the assassination of King Krzysztof by an unknown Równiny sniper in an incident that also nearly claimed the life of Queen Agnieska and their child, Irena, who at the time was only a few months old.
The incident led to the queen's final declaration: all armed forces and civilians of Flatland willing to surrender could do so immediately and would be treated with the utmost respect and care by the Winter Mountain. Those who persisted in battling would be facing the Boiler Corps. "This will not be a fate you enjoy," stated the Queen.
Many surrendered, but not most. The queen kept her word, and the Boilers descended upon Równiny. Able to manipulate fire--or more specifically, titanic jets and clouds of explosive, corrosive, and inflammable fluid--the Boilers scoured the Flatlands, obliterating key targets in hideous displays of flaming death. Other than the Boilers, the weapon that best exemplified this half of the war was the Clawhammer, a shotgun provided by the Winter Mountain's ally Threshold. In the gruesome trench-warfare, house-to-house slog of the final days of the war, the close range firepower and impressively gory effect of the shotgun ensured its place in the hearts of Winter Mountain soldiers.
Ironically, the final battle of the war was, in many ways, a Flatlander victory, culminating in the deaths of several of the most powerful Boilers Górazima had fielded. Unfortunately, their deaths were courtesy of commandeered Góraziman artillery, the total destruction of the Boilers resulting in a magi burst which not only obliterated most of the battle's participants, but also the area in which the battle took place: the Ash Forest, the most sacred and ancient of Flatland's old growth forests.
Their spirit broken, the last resistance in Równiny surrendered to Górazima. The Winter Mountain issued its conditions for the surrender. While primarily reasonable, there was one condition Równiny found excessive--the formal dissolution of the Grasscutters, whose leadership had kept the war trundling along that last awful year. Many in Równiny saw this as the first in an assault on their traditional values and symbols. Their objection was best raised in the final negotiation for peace, where the former Grasscutter Takeshi Nowakowski attempted to assassinate Queen Agnieska with a marksman pistol. One of her bodyguards, a shotgun carrier, interrupted the attempt decisively.
Górazima and Równiny are now unified, and are referred to formally as the Reunification, pending a superior name to be chosen. Relations have been tense from the moment peace was declared. While Górazima has offered enormous amounts of effort and capital in restoring Równiny, they have indeed insisted on the Flatland adopting the state religion--not officially, but very insistently. Several destroyed cities and towns have been rebuilt as manufacturing centers, to some protest by Równiny officials. Even now, eighteen years later, Równiny is still recovering, while Górazima's wealth and prestiege has only increased.
Some say tensions will lead to an inevitable new civil war; others say that one way or the other one side will have to concede to the wants or needs of its neighbors.
On her eighteenth birthday, Princess Irena "Irenka" Jadwig Wojciecha Kowalczyk-od-Jez, was signed up for the Reunification military; the same day, Karolina Osanna Nowakowski volunteered.
At present, they are the first paired Machine Gunner and Assistant Gunner in the Reunification army.
Demon days are ahead.