Sep Nullachtfünfzehn and co.

Short stories, fan fictions, and lots of insanity

A First Glance at Spritesdwell Pt. 2 – A “Brief” History of The Empire

Hello everyone,

Here we go with the second part of our first glance at Spritesdwell! And whilst the first issue dealt with a geographic overview, this will give an introduction to the history of Spritesdwell.

Why would that even be important?
Read the first part. It’s a fantasy universe. Or a science-fiction universe. Point being, history, of which I have prepared about 2000 years, and mythology, of which I have several thousands of years preceding the history, must be present in such universes, to avoid continuity errors, to add to the universe itself, etc. etc.

So what’s going in Spritesdwell’s history?
Murder. Incest. Betrayal. All legal, because the winning side did it.

For those who want the long version, I have prepared a 22-page long in-universe reference book called The – historically accurate – Lives of the Kings and Emperors of Upvale (Note: Upvale is the region whence The Empire grows and conquers the world; furthermore should it be noted that I am creating a language solely for this universe, Ærtanic, which is the lingua franca of The Empire, in which the names are written. A guide on the pronunciation of is to be written.)

And now, without further ado,

 

THE

HISTORICALLY ACCURATE –

LIVES OF

THE KINGS AND EMPERORS

OF UPVALE

written by Vakhtang Kashibadze, translated by Maëlys verc’h Morvan

Preface

First of all, it has to be noted that this will only deal with occurrences dated without a doubt. This is particularly relevant as many authors tend to include Ærtān’s banishment and the subsequent events. While they may be historical, their dating varies – whilst some hold to the legendary dating of mythological texts, using 99 generations as a basis for their calculations, most agree that, between Ærtān’s banishment and the establishment of civilisation in Upvale, at least twice the number of generations lived, if not three or four times their number. This, however, starts with the earliest occurrence of written sources that can be dated, thus beginning only several decades before the ETERNAL PEACE and the TAMING OF THE WOLVES. Chronicles were, of course, not always filled with what seemed relevant at the time, and thus, I had to resort to using less credible sources. Other than certain authors, I have attempted to use the most contemporary sources available. Thus, I had to analyse the epics FIVE WOLVES, ONE PACK and SHEDDING OF KINDRED BLOOD by Queen consort Azazac, her song TWO WANTON QUEENS, King Emneş’s AN ACCOUNT OF THE FRINGE TRIBES’ SUBJUGATION, Empress consort Aztāneş’s A PROTECTOR OF HIS PEOPLE, THE MASON, and many other works, as well as several local tales, with the aim to create a neutral, and complete picture of the people and happenings in question, always dated in years after the most recent datum, usually the BANISHMENT OF ÆRTĀN (ABÆ), the ETERNAL PEACE (AEP), and the COUNCIL OF ÆRDEȜĀÞ (ACÆ).

Also, this is not meant to be a detailed account of all the dozens of rulers Upvale has had since Emdeȝāþ’s days, on the contrary, it is meant to give a good overview of what said region – as well as those ruled by it – has had to endure. There are many, more detailed, and, in that sense, better works on single rulers, or only a few of them, such as Oslac’s classic THE BROKEN EMPEROR, Alexandros’s AZ’SĪNŪŁA– DECADES OF MADNESS, even Kæso Amazonus Rufus’s satirical play OF EMPEROR ÆRDEȜĀÞ’S LUCK AND END, and on less well-known ones, as well, the first and foremost amongst these being Marima Tamrat’s OF IMBECILES, BUILDERS AND SETTLERS, BEING A DETAILED ACCOUNT OF THE LIVES OF LESS POPULAR KINGS AND CHIEFTAINS OF UPVALE. This does not lay claim on, nor aim for such an abundance of detail and alike; this was written to give those unfamiliar with the matter an overview, as stated above, and to serve as a – though brief – reference book. Now, without further ado, to the matter itself.

Emdeȝāþ and the times before him

The earliest records date back to – according to Oslac’s, Marima Tamrat’s, and Emperor Emciaz’s dating – 7900 ABÆ, approximately, and deal with, apart from grain and steel production, raids of the Red Wolves on a mining village of the Green Wolves, as well as the appearance of the Wanderthede, and were found not in Ærtansville, as one might expect, but in Ironbrook. The quarrels of that age, known as Wars of the Wolves – fought between the descendants of Ærtān’s children, all of whom are of arguable historicity – and the War of Kindred Peoples, between the Wanderthede – descendants of Ærtān’s original tribe – and all the Five Wolves, or clans of Upvale, largely determined what would come later in Upvale’s history. The campaigns and intrigues of Emdeȝāþ’s father, whose name is usually given as Ærbitān, which are collectively known as the Taming of the Wolves, secured the White Wolves’ place in Ærtānsville’s Round Hut, and later also applied the principle of loyalty within one’s family to all of Ærtān’s direct descendants, the Five Wolves. Whilst they kept their Round Huts, their towns, and largely, the incomes of their lands, the White Wolves, henceforth the House of Ærtān and Az’silvās, would unshakably sit rule the lands of all the Wolves. However, the Wanderthede, who posed an immense problem, did not simply vanish.

Emdeȝāþ, born 8120 ABÆ, invested as Chieftain 8139 ABÆ, crowned as King 1 AEP (8140 ABÆ), died 21 AEP; called the Peacemaker

Emdeȝāþ was born to Ærbitān, at that time, Chief of the White Wolves, and an unknown woman, likely of the Black Wolves. During his father’s late reign, Emdeȝāþ acted as a trusted advisor, and was the one to discover a pattern in the Wanderthede’s raids, and the one to organise a defence against them in Ærtānsville. He, and his father, led them into battle, his father was slain – the first to fall, in fact – thus passing down the Round Hut to Emdeȝāþ, which has hardly occurred before – a father passing the Round Hut to his son.

As a first act of his reign, he entered peace negotiations with the Wanderthede, whose chieftain – usually referred to as Wœyrw – he met in battle. On either shore of the Clearwater, just out of Ærtānsville, the former combatants met, a negotiator – who is believed to have been Ærtān reincarnated – in the centre of the river. It was agreed upon that the Wanderthede would become the White Wolves’ vassal, but allowed to keep to their wandering ways. To cement the treaty, called the Eternal Peace, Emdeȝāþ’s sister, Azołvis, would marry Wœyrw and the latter’s daughter Az’sa was married to Emdeȝāþ. With his new vassals, Emdeȝāþ could easily subdue the other Wolves as they rose against him, and forced them to sign similar treaties as the Wanderthede, as not to base his power on spoken promises.

When Wœyrw died during the hostilities accompanying that, Azołvis decided to aid her brother, who thereafter simply married her – to take that as the beginning of royal/imperial incest in the House of Ærtān and Az’silvās is incorrect, similar practices existed amongst the Wolves, as they believed themselves first amongst equals due to divine ancestry, and sought to keep bloodlines pure.

Either way, despite a certain lingual barrier between his wife and himself, he was – allegedly driven by their mutual love – fast to father children on her, the order, as often in contemporary sources of these times, unknown. Ærde, his son and heir, was born to her, as was Azvołse, the latter’s later sister-wife. Azołvis too did not remain a virgin or barren these days, as she bore at least the daughter Azołȝāþ. Other – very likely – siblings are not listed, most likely due to the practice arising in these days, the practice of giving “additional” children to the Wolves for education, leaving only three of them with their parents.

Emdeȝāþ died at the age of 41, being succeeded by his son Ærde in all his functions, as the High Chieftain, or King of Upvale, as well as the High Shaman.

The early Kings

Ærde, born 3 AEP, crowned as King 21 AEP, died 52 AEP; called the Settler

When Ærde became King, following the same rite of passage as his father had, in which he had to prove his endurance and strength, the young realm was under the firm control of his mother, Az’sa and his aunt, Azołvis. The two, arguably bound together by a certain familial love, kept a close watch on what little the realm was then. The Wolves heeled at their call, whilst they acted as advisor to King Ærde, who was, during these days, busy getting his sister-wives pregnant, and figuring out how to rule. When they passed in 37 AEP, he took over a prosperous and stable realm ready for expansion.

The towns of the Wolves – Windpass, Minesprings, Steelpool, Ironbrook, and Ærtānsville – became centres of colonisation, wide areas of forests were cut and burnt down to create farming land and meadows, quarries and mines were hewn into the mountains, and even though he ruled, in his own right, only for fifteen years, he saw the – relatively speaking – greatest expansion of that realm.

He was married to his sister Azvołse and his half-sister Azołȝāþ, on both of whom he fathered children. Born of these unions, though not made clear to whom, exactly, were Emrede, his son and heir, and the daughters – and later, the latter’s sister-wives – Azcāsā and Þîłdeȝāþ.

Passing at the age of 49, Ærde left his son a realm facing the same problems as before his father, yet a more united one.

Emrede, born 22 AEP, crowned as King 52 AEP, died 61 AEP; called the Queer

Taking over in turbulent times, when the so-called Fringe Tribes began raiding the realm, his – short – reign did not allow for him to settle. The rapid expansion under his father had weakened the realm, made it vulnerable to attacks, thus Emrede hurried from one battle to the next, pacifying one foe, whilst angering the next. He allegedly had developed quite a liking for the warriors he was travelling with, to that point that he ignored his sister-wives, who themselves sought battle.

It was not surprising that, when he died at age 39, he left no heirs, but dozens of mourning lovers.

Thus followed an interregnum, or rather, in that case, regency. His sisters, Azcāsā and Þîłdeȝāþ, took control over whatever forces he had left, and struck out to both sides, north and south. The Fringe Tribes were defeated in the field, but not in spirit – they kept attacking. Thus, the sisters resorted to diplomatic measures, and thus managed to – partially peacefully – subdue these tribes. During these missions, the two met a chief of a tribe, allegedly bearing the name Vakhtang, who impregnated them both. On Azcāsā, he fathered the heir to the realm, Ærdedac, thus called the Bastard, and on Þîłdeȝāþ, the latter’s future sister-wife, Azdānîd, called the Adventurer. After about 20 years, the regency ended.

Ærdedac, born 65 AEP, crowned as King 65 AEP and 80 AEP, died 138 AEP; called the Bastard

Whilst in no way legitimate, he was the closest to an actual heir there was after Emrede’s death and during the regency. When he took over, most of Upvale answered to his call, excluding only a few tribes in the most remote valleys. Declaring himself King of the Holy Vale, he, and his sister-wife Azdānîd, marched a host to all the fringes, and subdued all in their path. On their way, they found to ways over the till then impassable mountains to the north and south, the pathways later called Kingsway (into the Firths) and Queensway (into Sandbogs), respectively, and used for trade during their later rule. The two, twins in all but blood, allegedly shared all they had, even their lovers, which led to an uproar amongst the slowly forming clergy, and amongst nobles as well.

Even so, the inheritance was regulated, and Ærdedac’s son – by a noble of the Red Wolves – Ærîsār declared his heir, who was due to marry his cousin, or half-sister Azazac.

Dying at 73, Ærdedac left the realm more stable than ever, his Tribesman blood playing a role in that.

Outwards expansion

Ærîsār, born 109 AEP, crowned as King 138 AEP, died 170 AEP; called the Amiable

The last of the Fringe Tribes were subjugated as Ærîsār’s first course of action as King – which came to be the only campaign he would lead, as his reign was less disturbed than his father’s. Instead of leading warriors into battle, he led quills across parchment – he was the first of the direct, male line of the, at that time, Royal House of Upvale to show poetic inclinations. Also, whilst little had been documented in the century before his birth, he had stelae erected aplenty, to tell of his ancestors’ deeds. The Round Hut was expanded under his reign, and worshipping in the Field of Kinsmen, or Holy Battlefield, began in his reign, and, for the first time ever, trade flourished in Upvale.

However, it was not long till their traders would be accused of various crimes, unfairness to foreign trade partners most of all. The several lords and chieftains in Sandbogs, were exceptionally cross with Upvale, and decided to banish all of Upvale traders from their lands. Ærîsār, however, did not raise his forces – the Wolves did that themselves – but marched, accompanied only by a translator, north. He crossed the Kingspass, and requested audience with the first sovereign he would find on his own. They erred through the country, and ended up at a town called Duneshade, ruled by a lady that would be known as Azemar. She received the King, and heard what he had to say. He offered alliance to her, and full support in whatever matter, in exchange for her hand, and freedom of his traders to trade as they liked. She accepted, and the Wolves’ host crossed the mountains as well, and became the first occurrence of mercenaries in Upvale history, in a way, for Azemar, now Queen consort of Upvale, broke the balance of powers, and thus united Sandbogs, becoming the first Lady of the Sandbogs. It was not long till Ærîsār’s daughter by his sister-wife Azazac, called Azcacin, was joined by his son by Azemar, called Emneş.

At age 61, Ærîsār died, passing the throne to his son, who would continue his father’s course.

Emneş, born 143 AEP, crowned as King 170 AEP, died 209 AEP; called the Bloody

Neither at his father’s, nor at his own time was trade of Upvale restricted to Sandbogs – the Firths were just as well a partner in trade. At the time fractured into dozens of petty kingdoms, lordships, tribes and alike, many of them would try anything for more influence. One of them were the lords of Icemound, who had heard of the happenings in Sandbogs, and while other tribes and lords and petty kings had chosen to send the traders back whence they had come, believing to be strong enough to withstand the power of Upvale, those of Icemound saw the sense in not doing so, being at the south end of the Queensway.

Emneş had not sought involvement. When the other tribes etc. of the Firths declared war on those of Icemound for being traitors to their people, it was not him, but his mother who saw the opportunity to expand Upvale’s influence. Not seeking it, he rallied his army, and marched the Queensway. When they came to Icemound after a long and tiring march, the battle had begun, between the warriors of Icemound and those from the rest of the Firths. His army simply cut off any routes out, and slowly advanced, letting their foes run into their spears. Afterwards, the leaders who remained were taken and marched over by the army.

The treaty Emneş signed with the lord of Icemound, henceforth the Lord of all the Firths, was an exchange: the hand of the Lord’s daughter, Azvineþre, eternal alliance, and a freeing of all thralls in the Firths, for Icemound’s rule in the Firths. Azvineþre gave the King a son, Æremas, to match his daughter by his sister-wife Azcacin, Az’zmas.

The rest of his reign was spent consolidating the realm, and crushing several minor rebellions in both the Sandbogs and the Firths most brutally, thus earning Emneş his nickname.

The realms of Upvale, Sandbogs, and the Firths were stabilised by the end of his rule at age 66.

Æremas, born 181 AEP, crowned as King 209 AEP, died 250 AEP; called the Ignorant

Æremas was the first to ascend the throne without passing the original rite – which was the greatest change he himself made during his rule. He was hot-headed, quarrelsome and without a strong resolve – it is usually said that the best thing about his reign was his wife Azedcin, who was Lady of Sandbogs and his second cousin. She had many of the traits he lacked – strong resolve, to the degree it was described as stubbornness, a calculating nature, and a talent for resolving conflicts.

However, she did not lack a certain want for adventure, and is best known for her greatest speculation, which began when the three – King Æremas and Queen consorts Azedcin and Az’zmas – headed from the valley of the Gildenstream to the Lightflood’s valley. Usually considered a part of Upvale, the Lightflood Vale, its river running to the Lowvale, has strong connections with the latter. And thus, the three heard of a land to the west, beyond the mountains and cataracts. Whilst Æremas and Az’zmas soon forgot the words, Azedcin could not – and, in her own name, readied an army of adventurers, and struck west along the Gildenstream. She entered a narrow valley with the steepest slopes, passing towns hewn into the rock. Marching on, they came upon the confluence of Lightflood and Gildenstream, where the valley widens into a plain and the Gildenstream has a thousand branches, and where the Kings of Lowvale reside in Kingsfords. She met with the King of Lowvale, and demanded his submission to her husband, which he denied her, attempting to destroy her host. The contrary was the case, and Lowvale was bound to Upvale by a contract set in stone, making Æremas the first High King of the Holy Vale.

Whilst Az’zmas bore Æremas the daughter Azesvîł, Azedcin bore him his heir, Emazar, who was married to the daughter of the King of Lowvale, Az’sācin, to seal the alliance in blood.

At age 69, when he died, Æremas ruled one of the strongest realms there had been to that point, without having done anything to make it that way.

Emazar, born 216 AEP, crowned as High King 250 AEP, died 269 AEP; called the Brilliant

Emazar was more his mother than anything, to the point where some even called him the Black. Most of all, he had inherited her nature, which would greatly benefit the realm in the long run. That, and a decree that is attributed to several rulers: the Decree of Settledness, which forced the former Wanderthede to either settle down, or leave the lands of the kings of Upvale. Many had settled in Upvale, many had migrated to Hindvale, and later settled there, outnumbering all other peoples there, though only barely, and in no realm being a majority.

Emazar saw himself as the protector of all his peoples, including his mother’s, his wife’s, and the Wanderthede, their position not mattering in the least. When several petty kingdoms in Hindvale, most of all, a certain realm called Makedon, decided to drive out the Wanderthede, Emazar rallied his armies, and marched east, into the mountains and valleys of Hindvale. Makedon controlled most of that region then, and readied their own forces, whereas most of the independent tribes saw the chance to grasp power, and thus attacked Makedon themselves, or, as a certain matriarchal clan called Amazones, side with Emazar directly.

Making use of his – in theory – inferior position, Emazar let the forces of Makedon run into his spears, and crushed their, any the other tribes’ forces all. In the end, he installed the Amazones clan as Queens of Hindvale, who would be his own vassals, which was the beginning of the likely longest-lasting alliance in all of history. For the first time, a kind of peace was present throughout the Holy Vale, which could’ve led to a golden age, had Emazar not failed to father a son – only two of his children are knonw, his daughter by his sister-wife Azesvîł, Azēmar, and his daughter by his wife Az’sācin, Azāzar, who would become the most popular characters in tragedies with historical background.

When he died at age 53, Emazar left the core of the later Empire united, yet the matter of his succession unresolved.

The Great Interregnum

When Emazar died without sons, but with daughters, it was generally expected that a certain precedent was going to be followed suit, that his daughters would have children fathered by the same man, and that the eldest son the eldest daughter of the other would marry. That was not the case, as the regent – Emazar’s brother Emzonir, who took over in 269 AEP – had other plans. He, the Wolves, and a certain clan Kashibadze of the northern Fringe Tribes, conspired to prevent the then Royal House from dying as a consequence of century-long incest. Thus, the two daughters of Emazar were taken captive, and plans made of how to mix their blood with as many different peoples as possible. The exact plans of Emzonir’s can be read about in correspondences between the conspirators, and in the later regents’ notes, who documented it in every detail.

Emzonir, born 230 AEP, began regency 269 AEP, died 301 AEP; called the Iron

Under his regency began the bloody conflict for the Holy Vale, in which Upvale would not be involved. Troops of Hindvale, of several houses of Sandbogs, the Firths, and also Lowvale, marched against the rest of these regions. Kin-slaying amongst the royal and lordly families of these regions in these days was not uncommon.

In Upvale, however, no blood was spilled in these days. Emzonir and his co-conspirators chose the – then still adolescent – Azēmar and Azāzar to bear children, the former being impregnated first by a farmer of a southern Fringe Tribe, later again by a nomad from the Lowvale, and third by a very isolated tribe from the Firths, whereas the latter was forced to bear children of first a man of the north-westernmost Hindvale, second of a nomad of the Sandbogs, and last of a blacksmith of Ironbrook.

It is uncertain whether these products of breeding even received names, it is only certain that the male children were killed almost instantly, and that breeding continued until female children were born. Towards Emzonir’s regency’s end, preparations were made for the second round of breeding, where the origin of the men vaguely remained the same, but the combinations were mixed up twice, so that it ended up with twelve siblings, first and second cousins – all female – who were ethnically most diverse.

Emzonir was not the last to breed, on the contrary. When he died at age 71, passing the regency to a Green Wolf called Ærdān, said man only continued Emzonir’s plans.

Ærdān, born 279 AEP, began regency 301 AEP, died 343 AEP; called the Lecherous; Lord of Ironbrook

Taking over from Emzonir only months before his death, Ærdān, a Greed Wolf, was resolved to continue his plans. When the second generation of breeding products was born, or rather, forming, as many died in their first days, partially due to their mothers’ young age, he began searching for fitting matches. There were a great many whom he found, and, in the third round of breeding, he, once more, doubled the number of breeding products, and with that, their diversity, to minimise the potential effects of incest in what was to come.

However, he was not as resolved to only do that for the good of the realm, he is reported – by himself – to have participated in the breeding himself, and that the Green Wolves are thus rather closely related to the then Royal House, as he adopted the children of these unions as his own, legitimate ones.

When his regency ended shortly before his life did, he was preparing the reunification of the Royal line.

Azcindān, born 327 AEP, began regency 343 AEP, died 357 AEP; called the Golden

Rumoured to be one of Ærdān’s children, but certainly of Royal bloody, the only blonde member of her entire clan took over the regency at the age of sixteen until she was assassinated at age thirty, and saw the beginning of the breeding’s second phase, and a great increase in its products’ living conditions.

Emedīn, born 328 AEP, began regency 357 AEP, died 400 AEP; called the Wise; Lord of Steelpool

The Red Wolf’s regency began during the greatest troubles of the Great Interregnum, when the hostilities reached even Upvale. Not only had the previous regent been assassinated, but also did the the greatest and most decisive battles happen then. The faction in favour of a united realm, led by the Queens of Hindvale, led their forces against the opponents of such, led by the Kings of Lowvale, and crushed the latter’s forces several times, but not managing to entirely destroy the enemy faction, the conflict eventually dying down.

At the same time, Emedīn had managed to keep Upvale as a faction, as well as its people out of the conflict, even the Fringe Tribes, who had before chosen sides as well. Other than that, he began what would be called the Reunification of the Royal Line – the products of the previous breeding would all bear one male or one female child, once more increasing their diversity. These breeding products were then intermarried, a process that would be continued until only two, one male and one female, remained, which would occur only after Emedīn’s regency.

When he died a 72-year-old man, Emedīn left Upvale least touched by war of all realms, and it, as well as the Royal line, ready for a new king.

Ærtāneş, born 373 AEP, began regency 400 AEP, died 421 AEP; called the Greedy; Lord of Windpass

Instead of open warfare, banditry and general chaos began to dominate the lands of the Holy Vale, the Firths, and of the Sandbogs, and the Black Wolf regent did not exactly fight that development. Indeed, it could be said that, in a certain way, Ærtāneş’s regency was, in its ideas, a predecessor of the Era of Steel, or Dark Era – he sought power in every way, and had no qualms using bandits for that.

Whilst he dutifully continued the Reunification of the Royal line, he had no plans to cede any of his influence to any king that would sooner or later would arise, indeed, it is said he wanted to install his own line in power because of claims more mythological than lawful, he was allegedly assassinated either by his own co-conspirators, or by the Queen of Hindvale. His twenty-one years of regency left the realm a mere shadow of itself.

Emvołmāng, born 395 AEP, began regency 421 AEP, died 446 AEP; called the Dutiful

When the Fringe Tribal Emvołmāng, or Vakhtang, of Clan Kashibadze, Chief of the Cartvelebi, took over the regency of Upvale, it was a ruin of a region. Whilst war itself had never touched it, it was in far worse a state than even Sandbogs or the Firths, where infighting had been especially common and especially brutal, simply because Ærtāneş was unable to live with the idea of having to share power.

Emvołmāng was rather certain to right several wrongs, and was able to root out the bandits and alike, whilst also at least arranging an end for the Reunification. The Chieftain was most dedicated to preparing the realms for the coming of a new king, after almost two centuries of relative neglect, not only moving against bandits, but also against the clergy.

In the end, he left the realm more stable – relatively speaking – than any before him.

Ærneş, born 404 AEP, began regency 446 AEP, died 477 AEP; called the Fatherly; Lord of Minesprings

The Blue Wolf’s regency began shortly after the final matches of the Kingsbreeding was made. However, it took another ten years until the desired effect occurred – one couple produced a girl, Azcāsā, and the other couple a boy, Ærȝîłdœ.

When it did, however, Ærneş’s duties were expanded beyond keeping the state of affairs as it was, and his council had to his work for him, as he raised the two like his own children, despite his advanced age. It took him the remaining twenty-one years of his life to make the two capable of ruling, and only when he died did the two dare to take over, ending two hundred and eight years of regencies.

Consolidation

Ærȝîłdœ, born 457 AEP, crowned as High King 477 AEP, died 512 AEP; called the Bleak

Despite the troubles that had befallen Upvale in the century before his reign, said region was the most populous at the beginning of Ærȝîłdœ’s reign, whilst, at the same time, war had eaten away a good portion of the people of the Sandbogs, the Firths, Hindvale and Lowvale. This, in conjunction with a famine that befell Upvale in 485 AEP, led to the settling of these regions by great numbers of people of Upvale, ordered by the High King himself, as to prevent mass starvation.

This, however, was his only great deed – elsewise, his reign was plagued by increasing corruption, and increasing influence of the clergy, a class that had formed during the early kings, out of shamans and alike, and had become increasingly independent during the Great Interregnum. This, it is assumed, is largely due to his – and his wife’s, Azmas’s – strong bond with their foster father Ærneş, and their prolonged mourning after his death.

When he himself died at age 55, leaving the realm to his son Emcinsīr and that one’s later sister-wife Azāłica, he had made his own people truly dominant in all the Holy Vale, Sandbogs and the Firths.

Emcinsīr, born 478 AEP, crowned as High King 512 AEP, died 530 AEP; called the Far-sighted

Other than his father, Emcinsīr, and his sister-wife Azāłica thirsted for action once placed in power, even though they came to the throne somewhat late. They inherited yet unresolved problems still from the Great Interregnum, mainly the hatred for the Royal House amongst the Kings of Lowvale, and many lords of Sandbogs, the Firths, and Hindvale. It were these two who first called the Lords’ Council, a gathering of all ruling nobles under rule from Upvale. There, they had the opponents of their own rule, as well as their supporters, present their demands, and managed to resolve the conflict – after years of negotiations – by instituting a system granting relative autonomy to the lords, and kings, whilst still placing them under the rule of the High King.

This treaty was sealed in ink and hewn into stone and sealed in blood – a great many marriages between opponents and supporters were made, and the faction leader of the opponents, young Queen mother Þîłāzis of Lowvale, would marry the High King himself, which was done on the same day that the treaty, henceforth called Charter of Rights and Duties, was signed.

Azāłica and Þîłāzis bore Emcinsīr quite a lot of children, however, his heir, after having fathered a legitimate son himself, died during his reign. Thus, when he died after a life of 52 years, Emcinsīr was succeeded by his grandson Embitān and that one’s first cousin once removed, Azłevis.

Embitān, born 518 AEP, crowned as High King 530 AEP, died 586 AEP; called the Young

Requiring a regency because of his young age at his accession to the throne, his first deed as High King – likely his regent’s – was dismissing all advisors except for the fatherly figure of the Great Sage – whose office had long been called High Shaman, and passed down the line from Emdeȝāþ – who thus could greatly increase his influence on the realms. His subordinate sages and priests and other clerics took positions previously occupied by nobles of all kinds, effectively taking over administration.

That Great Sage’s successor, a woman known only as Azołsyt, however, went even further – not only did she marry Embitān, but she also made him sign a treaty between the throne and the clergy – the Concordat – which gave the clergy right to hold lands, and made it rather independent from the throne, whilst obliging the latter to protect the former. This change dismayed many nobles, however, every wish to change it went unheeded – Embitān trusted the clergy and sought to protect it.

At the end of his reign, he was not only 68, but had also outlived his original heir Emîvāng – his son by Azłevis – and was planned to be succeeded by Ærcēłan, that one’s son by Azsīr, who was the daughter of Embitān and Azołsyt. However, he was not the only one with plans.

Emcinnār, born 567 AEP, crowned as High King 586 AEP, died 605 AEP; called the Terrible

It is generally agreed upon that Emcinnār’s accession was unlawful, and occurred under corresponding circumstances, it is agreed that his accession was in truth a coup, being the previous High King’s nephew. Nonetheless, he sat the throne after Embitān’s death.

Like his predecessor, he sought good relations with the clergy – for entirely different reasons, however, he sought nothing less than as much control as possible, especially over the constituent realms of Lowvale, Sandbogs, Hindvale, and the Firths, which many men and women of Upvale had settled after the Great Interregnum. He believed the High King was not only the protector of all people of Upvale, but in truth had the right of making them his, of freeing them from unjust rule. Thus, he raised a small, elite force of soldiers, equipped them, and they marched – he leading them, and all of them lusting for blood – into Lowvale.

Whilst it is generally agreed that warfare hardly is the most pleasant of activities, this war was exceptionally brutal. Whoever dared oppose him and his forces was crushed, all men killed, at times even eaten, it is believed, almost all women raped, and the nearest villages shared the opposing forces’ fate, being looted, and at times also burnt down, in addition.

Whilst it is generally agreed upon that Emcinnār was in fact insane, hardly anyone doubts his military brilliance – no force that opposed him in open battle was ever victorious. The lords and chiefs and Kings of Lowvale threw all their might against his small force, but to no avail. It is said that they passed through every town and village, and that all of Lowvale hence is of Upvale blood. The same fate would have befallen Hindvale, the Firths, and Sandbogs, however, the Wolves did what they had to for the good of the realm, gathered several warriors, and prepared an ambush at the cataract, men of the Black Wolves eventually slaying the High King.

The Glorious Commonwealth, established 605 AEP, abolished and Kingdom restored 632 AEP

The Wolves thus called a Council consisting of themselves, the Clergy, and the Chieftains of the Fringe Tribes, but instead of agreeing on a new High King, they deemed it best to abolish High Kingdom altogether, to minimise the chances of another Great Interregnum, or another coup like Emcinnār’s, by distributing power amongst themselves.

Thus they founded the Commonwealth of Upvale, which would replace the High King in all his functions, this including the overlordship over Lowvale, Hindvale, Sandbogs and the Firths. The High Council of the Commonwealth, consisting of the Sages, the Lords of the Wolves, the Chieftain of the Cartvelebi, the most powerful of the Fringe Tribes, and the rulers of the constituent realms, henceforth governed the Holy Vale, and saw the restoration of some semblance of order in Lowvale, and began the hunt for the tribe that Emcinnār’s force had become. Whilst the realms prospered, however, the clergy began a certain, increasing secularisation, using other matters’ discussions to convince the High Council of the necessity of them owning more land. This, and constant infighting, which escalated at times, were only two of the problems that plagued the High Council – Lowvale was seeking retribution for the atrocities committed, and no appeasement the High Council offered the King would halt his army marching up the Gildenstream.

Nor did anything stop the Black Wolves from conspiring to overthrow the Commonwealth and restore the High Kingdom under their own rule, whilst yet others conspired with the same goal, however seeking another to sit the throne, one of the Royal line.

Trade saw a major downturn these days, and agricultural output too decreased, not to speak of mining. When Ærtānsville was overrun, first by Emcinnār’s men, then by the army of Lowvale, the High Council sought the aid of another, who in their stead would take over. It was Ærdœtān, the great-grandson of the last lawful High King Embitān, who raised his own army, occupied Kingsfords, the seat of the Kings of Lowvale, and thus forced the men of Lowvale to return under his rule.

Ærdœtān, born 598 AEP, crowned as High King 632 AEP, died 644 AEP; called the Fat

The son of Ærcēłan, the rightful heir of High King Embitān the Young, restored the Royal line proper to the Round Hut and the throne after 46 years of tyranny, anarchy and the Commonwealth, more by chance than by strategic thought. His popularity was the determining factor in the choice of the High Council, as well as his marriage to the Black Wolf Azarīł, who would remain his only wife, and give him the son Ærsāȝe and the daughter Azrede. His popularity almost instantly gave him the army he required for securing the throne he had been promised, which he did with – considering his weight – surprising swiftness.

Lowvale was suppressed, but not forever. Thus, Ærdœtān made the greatest achievement of his entire reign – the Charter of Laws, Tongue and Duties, and the first amendment of the Concordat. The former granted Lowvale a great many freedoms, when compared to other constituent realms, in exchange for allowing, even forcing cultural assimilation. The latter was a similar case – the clergy would have to cede most of its lands back to the throne, but the constituent realms would have to adapt their faiths to fit the one of Upvale, the clergy thus ceding land to gain influence.

However, Ærdœtān’s body could not take his greed for food, and thus, his reign ended when he was only 46 years old, being succeeded by his son Ærsāȝe.

Ærsāȝe, born 623 AEP, crowned as High King 644 AEP, died 675 AEP; called the Cunning

When he came to the throne, Ærsāȝe showed similar tendencies like the usurper Emcinnār – he raised an elite force of warriors, equipped it, and marched forth. His sister-wife Azrede, however, accompanied him on his campaign – for he had promised to bring down the Usurper’s men, as the tribe that had once been Emcinnār’s force had come to be called.

Said tribe had taken whomever it required to refill its own numbers, girls and women as well, and thus had a woman – Az’sācin – as their leader. This, of course, required raiding, and the tribe was raiding all across the realms, from the icy Firths to the scorching-hot Sandbogs, however, raiding in the manner of Emcinnār – killing the men, or recruiting them, raping the women, taking the goods, and some children, burning the village down. That raiding tribe was not a simple spot of dirt on the prestige of the Royal line – it was a serious threat to the realm, especially its integrity, as many tribes and lords, mainly in the Hindvale, raised their own forces to fight the tribe, or whom they believed caused it to raid where it did – the Kings of Upvale.

Ærsāȝe thus had two objectives – and not only did he follow the precedence by not slaughtering the entire tribe and marrying their chieftess, who bore him the daughter Azȝāþef, he also prevented the spread of open rebellion. When he had had finished all his campaigns in Hindvale, he had lived 5s years already, had a son, Ærdānid, by Azrede as an heir, and died when marching home, likely in an avalanche.

Ærdānid, born 645 AEP, crowned as High King 675 AEP, died 701 AEP; called the Charismatic

His accession was, due to his father’s sudden demise, sudden, and thus giving an excellent opportunity for all kinds of opportunists, the Clergy being the most influential of them. Upon learning of Ærsāȝe’s death, the plotting began to take over positions usually reserved for Fringe Tribe chieftains and Wolf lords – mainly controlling trade routes and mines – as well as others plotting other treacherous acts.

However, Ærdānid’s reign is known to have been a quiet one – he is said to have talked plotters out of their activity, to have talked people into submission, and thus to have secured his rule. Else, his reign was the least eventful of all, it is generally agreed, except for rumours of first information about the Boroughs reaching Upvale in these days.

He married, in addition to the sister-wife Azȝāþef, who bore him his heir Ærcetān, the daughter of a peasant from northern Upvale, Azgesīr, who would bear him the daughter Azsāȝe. After 56 years of life, 26 of them as High King, he died under suspicious circumstances, leaving many questions unanswered.

Ærcetān, born 682 AEP, crowned as High King 701 AEP, died 747 AEP; called the Butcher

Whilst his father had appeased his vassals, Ærcetān sought change in the structure and state of the realm, and in the process of fulfilling that became the first lawful ruler of Upvale to be called a tyrant. Although his father had attempted to curb the Clergy’s renewed expansion at the Throne’s cost, he had not been fully successful. Whilst his father would have negotiated, Ærcetān was less forgiving. He promised everyone who brought members of the Clergy before him great, and especially prestigious rewards. Many, especially second- and third-born nobles and alike flocked to his banner, and quickly, he seized many of the Clergy’s members. When they were deaf to his demands of amending the Concordat according to his wishes, so they would serve the Throne only, he had many priests slaughtered, their heads sent to the Sages, and only after exactly a hundred of them did the Sages comply and cede many of their rights.

Meanwhile, he lost a good part of his de facto power to rebellions in the provinces, where preachers spread the word of the blasphemous High King. Those had previously served him did once more – they brought preachers and peasants’ and miner’s leaders before him, and he had them all executed publicly, earning yet more favours with him. For the remainder of his reign, they spread out across his realm, and began to compete against each other in who could bring the High King the most dissidents, leading to a bloodshed and loss of knowledge beyond imagination, as decrees concerning the Clergy were also often destroyed.

His personal life was not too different from his politics. Azsāȝe would remain his only wife, and was thus cursed with his full attention. She bore him the son Ærcîprūn, yet he demanded further children of her, raping her to death in the end. When Ærcetān died at age 65, the realm was lucky his son was not keen on following his father’s footsteps.

Ærcîprūn, born 701 AEP, crowned as High King 747 AEP, died 750 AEP; called the Damned

The son of the Butcher King came to the throne a grown, perhaps even old man. He had helped his father commit atrocities against the Clergy, and had learned his lesson then – that the realm could not be held together by constant terror from above, especially as his father’s death occurred, though relatively late, under suspicious circumstances. He outlawed those whom his father had used to fight the Clergy, unless they would return to civilian life, and did his best to reconcile with the Clergy, and all others whom his father’s policies had harmed in any way. This way of handling former enemies did not save him from new ones, however.

As his father, however, he took only one wife. She, by the name of Azisār, often called the Elder to avoid confusion with a later one of the same name, was of the blood of the Queens of Hindvale, and often thought to have been involved in his death in his 49th year of life, and even rumoured to have refused attempts of procreation – though Ærcîprūn might as well have been infertile.

The following two years saw the closest the Black Wolves ever got to royal rank. They rallied Ærcetān’s former forces to take Ærtānsville whilst High King Ærcîprūn was dying, and once he had, infighting between the Black Wolves began to take the Throne. Meanwhile. Azisār the Elder convinced her relatives and their vassals, as well as several chieftains of the Fringe Tribes, to raise their own forces, and thus they marched on Ærtānsville as well. Once there, she proved herself more than capable in the art of persuasion, and many of the Black Wolves’ supporters defected. In the end, she was installed as a regent.

Towards the end of the interregnum’s second year, however, a claimant to the Throne appeared. Some claimed he was Ærcîprūn’s till then unknown son, or that he was even a second son of Ærcetān’s, or simply of the Royal House’s branches, with no particularly notable relation to any former High King. Either way, then nine year-old Ærȝîłtān found his way to the Round Hut, and ruled in his own right.

Ærȝîłtān, born 743 AEP, crowned as High King 752 AEP, died 835 AEP; called the Mason

It is generally agreed that Ærȝîłtān was not an ordinary person when it comes to his skills – what he lacked in physical strength, which is usually considered a consequence of inbreeding, he made up for in cunning. He managed to place himself on the Throne at the early age of nine, and ruled without a regent henceforth. Not only did he thwart all attempts at placing someone else in power, but also did he deal with those superior in age with a certain superiority of his own, which earned him many enemies and even more admiration. His first years of rule – that is, before his wedding at age sixteen – were marked by righting many wrongs done by his predecessors. While he kept the Clergy in its weak position, he also made them his allies, as he did with the Kings of Lowvale, and Ærcetān’s former forces, who would rise to importance during his reign.

When he married someone he declared his half-sister, Azvās, in the seventh year of his rule, his policies changed dramatically. Having become an ally, friend even, of many, having earned their trust, his alleged sister-wife is said to have convinced him of changing the realm into a more united one. He called a council of all lords, whose end was the Charter of Rights and Obligations, placing him and his dynasty at the top of all the Holy Vale, including the Clergy. Furthermore did it make those who had served Ærcetān lords and alike again, who, however, would have to swear their loyalty for generations to come to the Throne, and to fight in the Throne’s, but even more so in the realm’s name whenever required.

To unify his gigantic realm, he began the projects he is best known for – the Sunsway, a wide, cobbled road from Ærtānsville via Bloodrun to the Spearsound, then the easternmost fringe of the realm; the Moonsway, from Ærtānsville via the cataract and Kingsfords to Gildenfalls, the westernmost limit; cobbling the Kings- and the Queensway; and, of course, the Realmsguard fortresses, gigantic fortresses at the limits of the realm: Realmsguard on the Peak, or Old Realmsguard, on the pass of the Queensway and on the border between the Holy Vale and Sandbogs; Realmsguard in the Morn, or Mornguard, at the Spearsound’s shore; Realmsguard in the Gorge, or Gorgeguard, on the pass of the Kingsway and the border between Upvale and the Firths; Realmsguard by the Stream, or Gildenguard, at the Gildenfalls at the westernmost point of the realm. Further did he order many smaller roads be built, and smaller fortresses reserved for his warrior nobles, mainly the Black Wolves. Also was the Round Hut expanded to fit the ruler of such a realm.

His reign saw peace, even between the Fringe Tribes, and in Hindvale. However, as successful as he was politically, as unsuccessful he was in personal matters. His lack of interest in his marriage, or in any person, in fact, lead to a late birth of an heir, Emcîprūn, who was weak and suffered from many diseases and other afflictions, and did not live to sit the Throne, if only by a year. When, later in his reign, his wife died during a – due to her age – nigh impossible birth of their daughter Aztāneş, it took him long to marry again. Azȝîłtān, named for him, and who could have been his granddaughter, was his second wife, who bore him only two children, the twins Azcāzo and Ærdeȝāþ, the latter of whom was given to his mother’s house, the Black Wolves as a ward.

At ninety, Ærȝîłtān, almost all his dreams made reality, the rest only a year or two short of becoming reality, felt the consequences of his high age in the form of mental inabilities clouding his once so great mind. The death of his heir a year later further worsened his state, although he was still able to teach his new heir, who then was fourteen, much about ruling, intrigues, and much more, as Ærdeȝāþ was quite the opposite of his father, concerning his set of skills. A year afterwards, Ærȝîłtān died in his sleep, after a long reign of 83 years and 92 years of life.

His death was kept a secret for over a year, however, as his advisors feared great instability spreading with the news of the High King’s death, and over the course of that year, Ærdeȝāþ, his sister-wife Aztāneş, and his twin and lover Azcāzo, managed to wring more and more power from them, until, at long last, Ærdeȝāþ was crowned High King at the first anniversary of his father’s death.

Ærdeȝāþ and the early Emperors

Ærdeȝāþ, born 820 AEP, crowned as High King 836 AEP, Emperor 1 ACÆ (839 AEP), died 23 ACÆ; called the Conqueror

Ærdeȝāþ inherited a realm most stable, and united, relatively speaking. However, as his sister-wife Aztāneş – who reportedly fancied women, thus freed of Ærdeȝāþ’s company – pointed out, the Charter of Rights and Obligations, in combination with other charters, would still grant the Kings of Lowvale and Hindvale relative independence, something Ærdeȝāþ could not to tolerate. Using all his father had taught him, and aided by his sister-wife and his twin sister, he sought to write a charter that would make him and his descendants the undeniable overlords and masters of his realm. He called a council which officially was meant to deal with traders’ reports of lands beyond the realm, but in truth served to forge a treaty that would put him above all. One of those gathered there who had found out about the High King’s true intentions confronted him, and agreed to aid with the wording of it – Azisār the Younger, Queen of Hindvale, whose name is given in local records as Regina Amazona Rufa. With the aid of his sisters and the Queen, who would later marry Ærdeȝāþ, the Charter of Laws, Duties and Regime was ratified by the lords of the realm, or henceforth, the Empire.

The warrior nobility settled by Ærȝîłtān was joined by many farmers all across the Empire, and reformed into the Imperial Army, a hereditary institution, or rather, portion of the population, whose only purpose was to keep the peace in the Empire, and later, to form the bulk of the Imperial forces in conquests. The many currencies then in circulation, if any were, either way, were replaced by a unified system consisting of coins called Paw, Wolf, and Pack, whose value varied over time. Instead of local laws and vigilante justice, Imperial laws and justice were established, influenced most by Azisār, which were later also applied to peoples outside the Empire, as a casus belli, and were also called the Principles of the Empire, mostly the equality of all adult people, religious freedom – as long as the basics of the Imperial Cult were adopted – and various laws already present in religious contexts.

The official cause for the Council of Ærdeȝāþ, however, was not without consequence, either. These traders’ reports had stirred up his curiosity, and, after brief discussions with his sisters and his wife, he mobilised the Imperial Army, and marched west, accompanied by Azisār. From Gildenguard, their forces searched for a way down the cliff, to the Mer’s shore, that marked the Holy Vale’s border, and found it – a steep ditch served as their road. Once at the Mer, the wide lake the Gildenstream pours into in a waterfall, they felled trees, and explored it, finding the city of Mermound. Azisār explored it, finding slavery and utter subjugation of women, and convinced Ærdeȝāþ to storm it and hang the slavers for their crimes. With it fell much knowledge on warfare into their hands. The other cities of the Boroughs – Everstout, Old Kingsseat, New Kingsseat, Hostsford, Sunfort, Moonfort, Saltburn, Foestarve, Gildennest, Menmarket and Woodsway – were soon united in their fight against the Empire, but to no avail. The Imperial forces defeated theirs, and brought Imperial justice to these cities, as well as Imperial order. The semi-desert around did not prevent the – then God-king – of Darkrealm from hearing these news, and when Ærdeȝāþ’s host marched westwards through the wastes towards that realm, he surrendered and thus saved his dynasty’s position. In a campaign of only four years, Ærdeȝāþ had conquered two of the richest regions in all of Spritesdwell.

The remainder of his reign was spent with keeping order in the Boroughs, especially by establishing fortresses of the Imperial Army, one of them being Teatsmarket, which would grow into the thirteenth city of the Boroughs. Furthermore, he had the roads of the Holy Vale, especially the Moonsway, connected with those of the Boroughs and of Darkrealm.

When he died of a kind of fever in the Boroughs, he had already made sure his succession would not be as problematic as his father’s – Azcāzo had given him an heir, Emvœrbing, and Azisār, amongst others, the daughter Azhærbing.

Emvœrbing, born 1 ACÆ, crowned as Emperor 23 ACÆ, died 78 ACÆ; called the Merciful

Emvœrbing’s accession was the first to be considered a coronation, a rite taken over from the Boroughs, which was long considered to be the only relevant occurrence during his reign. However, it can be said that his actions indeed considerably determined the Empire’s further development. He was the first to practice two-way cultural assimilation, as his accession proved, and not only gave the Imperial stronghold in the south of the Boroughs market rights, it thence being called Teatsmarket for the mounts between which it lies, he also had it rebuilt into a fortified palace of an enormous size, which would serve as his residence for most of his reign, and become the centre of the greatest city in the entire Empire.

However, he, as an almost incapable, and bored ruler, decided to face many minor problems, leaving the large, long-term ones to his advisors. One of these was the vanishing of merchants on their way from the Boroughs to Gildenreach, a second Empire in Spritesdwell, which continued even after several of the cities had sent mercenaries to investigate and deal with the problem. Emvœrbing rallied his forces, and searched the Lower Gildenstream with galleys, until he came upon a wooded island, on which a tribe of cannibals lived, led by their women, and speaking a tongue not unlike the Imperial. Despite whatever similarities, they attacked the Imperial forces in most devious ways, and Emvœrbing pulled out his troops, and had the island burnt down. Whatever survivors were found were taken prisoner, amongst them the chieftess of that wild tribe, Aztācnoł, who is said to have caught the Emperor’s eye, who decided to marry her. Her people were forced to integrate into the Imperial army and adopt Imperial ways, which considerably strengthened the Empire in the long run.

Afterwards, as before, Emvœrbing continued to address minor matters and left the grand game to his advisors, and wives, however, were the latter amongst what he focussed on. Despite that, however, he failed to produce a legitimate heir, as all his wives bore him were daughters, the most important being Azdeȝāþ, his daughter by Azhærbing, and Azułār, by Aztācnoł.

Azdeȝāþ, born 49 ACÆ, declared regent, crowned as Empress 78 ACÆ, died 121 ACÆ; called the Red

Her accession was the result of careful planning and intrigue of her own, ways of which she would be known throughout her reign. Other claimants found their way into iron mines and alike due to her, seemingly forsaken by everyone. She installed herself as a regent until she would bear a legitimate son, but in the same year, crowned herself as Empress, a position she had no plans of giving up.

Most vassals soon accepted her in her position, knowing well she had dealt with her competitors silently and could do the same with many of them. However, her actions few of them wanted to accept – she was known for her wanton ways, for laying with many, most prominent amongst them her half-sister Azułār, and the chieftess of the Firths, Azneş, as well as Emt’huł and Emyrȝāþ, two commoners from Upvale, who were later declared her children’s fathers.

However, her intrigue and affairs were not all under her rule. She is known to have restored, or rather, truly enforced the common laws of her grandfather, which had seen great neglect under her father, and modified them, added several ones, and so forth, the first unified Imperial code of laws thus being known as the Code of Azdeȝāþ. Furthermore did she make Darkrealm not only a vassal, but indeed an integral part of the Empire, whilst also organising the Boroughs into something akin an elective monarchy.

When she died at age 72, her affairs had produced the heir Emsiȝāþ and his later sister-wife, Azneşsa.

Emsiȝāþ, born 83 ACÆ, crowned as Emperor 121 ACÆ, died 129 ACÆ; called the Imbecile

At his coronation, he was already a grown man in body, but in mind he had remained a child – his mother had made all his decisions, and his wives – his sister-wife, Azneşsa, and his mother’s former lover, Azneş – would continue that. Other than his grandfather, however, he would father an heir, Emxāser, his child by Azneş, and a sister-wife for him, Az’sīn, his daughter by Azneşsa.

Failures and the Classical, or Golden Era

Emxāser, born 107 ACÆ, crowned as Emperor 129 ACÆ, died 163 ACÆ; called the Broken

He came to the throne full of ambition, sought to mirror his father’s conquests, to expand the Empire into the unknown. Without putting too much thought into it, he raised his forces, and led them north, out of Sandbogs, where, he had heard from merchants, great riches are, greater than Darkrealm’s, even. He led his force along the coastline, and soon found himself in a hilly expanse of rainforests, the dense growth only rarely being interrupted by roads, or rather, muddy paths, and terrace fields. Whatever few humans they encountered attacked them, gnawing at their strength, as did the omnipresent diseases. He turned his force westwards, and soon, after crossing a mountain range, found himself in the Grand Waste. Only by luck and providence, it is said, did he, and any of his men return to Upvale.

That procedure was repeated thrice thereafter, and only then did he see that there was no point in such an endeavour. Whilst he had previously been eager in all regards of ruling, and open to near everything, a heavy melancholy settled in henceforth, something neither the birth of his heir, Ærfōþ, nor anything his wives, Az’sīn, his sister, and Azfēł, the Queen of Hindvale and a distant relative, could do would change. While he did not cede any power to advisors, and was wise to do so, his melancholy weighed on his abilities as a ruler.

He died at the age of 56, rumoured to have committed suicide, he was succeeded by Ærfōþ, who was meant to marry one of his sisters, either Aztān, like him the child of Azfēł, or Az’sīn’s daughter Azmāng. However, he would rather have his own way.

Ærfōþ, born 135 ACÆ, crowned as Emperor 163 ACÆ, died 209 ACÆ; called the Glutton

Emxāser’s failure as a commander affected not only his own mind, and his wives’, but also his son’s, Ærfōþ’s. He claimed to have learnt from his father’s mistakes, as it can be read in his own works, he had seen “what ruling does to a man”. He became an utter hedonist, and thus even disregarded what choice his father had given him as potential wives. He came to the throne unwed, something he did only later, when he decided to attempt a bard’s life, and travelled through the Empire, whilst a council of advisors ruled the Empire. On his travels, he stayed in an inn in the Lowvale, where he met Þîłūła, sometimes called a whore, or merely a tavern wench, and married her the next morning.

His travels as a bard revealed that he indeed was quite skilled as such, and brought him into near every corner of the Empire, which bore fruit in the form of many – historically utterly incorrect – ballads and epics. Thus, it also brought him to the Firths, where, it is said, he was introduced to the chieftain’s daughter, Saxāser, whom he swore he would win over. He was successful and had his traditional two wives. His sisters did not take that slight lightly, that breach of tradition, and began plotting in their new positions, Azmāng as Queen consort of Lowvale, and Aztān as Queen of Hindvale.

Meanwhile did the council, or rather, its members, for it never worked as a unit, seek to increase its, their own power and wealth. Corruption and despotism, vigilante justice as a response to the latter, and the harshest of punishments in response to that, all arose throughout the Empire, and particularly, in the Boroughs, did an ancient tradition, under another name, resurface: slavery, or as it was called then, debt servitude, the Council seemingly completely ignoring the Code of Azdeȝāþ.

Concurrently, Ærfōþ gained his least favourable habit, namely an unnatural craving for food that made his position the only appealing thing about him, as he seemed to lose his mind as he gained weight. It was not long till he moved to Teatsmarket permanently, as moving him about the Round Hut would’ve soon become impossible. In the end, it was said he weighed more than twice as much as both his wives, who are said to have been relieved about his demise, as his lust would not fade with age, combined.

When his gluttony finally killed him at age 74, Þîłūła had given him the heir Emdānîd, and his lack of involvement had driven the Empire into an abyss of despotism.

Emdānîd, born 182 ACÆ, crowned as Emperor 209 ACÆ, died 250 ACÆ; called the Just

When his father died, Emdānîd struck a deal with his powerful aunts, Azmāng, Queen consort of Lowvale, with Emvœrbix as King, and Aztān as Queen of Hindvale, her husband being Emtsing, the Lord of the Ellenes, to bring down the corrupted regime of the Council of advisors, which never thought about sharing power. When Emdānîd married his cousins Azoşca, the daughter of Azmāng, and Azdān, Aztān’s daughter, his aunts provided him with the forces required for taking Teatsmarket, which he did, surprising the Council, all members of which he had imprisoned. Due to the suddenness of his move, he was able to take a great amount of evidence, and thus managed to uncover most of those who had taken illegal acts to widen their influence, all of whom he had captured and replaced with more law-obedient equivalents, always careful to act covertly, as to take as many who had been involved as possible. The ensuing Trials of Teatsmarket were, for the number of defendants, short – always had authentic proof been found condemning them. Hundreds of nobles, officials and advisors were hanged for crimes against the Empire. Such continued through most of his reign, to restore the Emperor’s position.

However, his restoration saw an end when his son and heir, Emcîāz, his son by Azoşca, vanished. The agents of the Shadowguard, founded during the restoration, in which it had played a major role, soon found out the Empire of Gildenreach was to blame. Indeed, a series of unilateral actions, up to banishing all merchants from the Empire, had led up to that, as the Emperor of Gildenreach would not tolerate another Emperor. Once Emdānîd had learnt of that, he, then already 65, rallied the Imperial Army and regional militias, and began a campaign leading beyond the Drymounts, into Gildenreach proper. They marched in three hosts, and, despite their numerical inferiority, they defeated every army Gildenreach threw at them, allegedly due to Emdānîd’s sheer wrath. Once they came to the Gilden City, Gildenreach’s capital, Emdānîd’s force stormed it, him leading the assault, even storming the Imperial Palace, and slaying the Emperor of Gildenreach, after killing the latter’s sons as they tried to stop him.

Only then, when Gildenreach had fallen, and their imperial bloodline thousands of years old had died out in the male line, did he stop. His son was freed, and the nobles of Gildenreach gathered to declare a new Emperor, choosing the previous one’s eldest daughter, Azvarūn, who had married Emcîāz.

On their way back, Emdānîd the Glorious died at age 68, leaving the Empire greater than any before.

Emcîāz, born 223 ACÆ, crowned as Emperor 251, died 281 ACÆ; called the Wise

Emcîāz’s return to his native Upvale was delayed, the host that had conwuered Gildenreach marched straight onwards, as, from the plains west of Darkrealm and the Mer, known as Meadowsea, masses of horse-mounted raiders led by so-called horselords, poured, defeating everything the local lords had thrown against them. They did not last long against the combined forces of all the Empire, however, and, pursued by them, fled into the steppes, where they were defeated over and over again, until, after a campaign of five years, Emcîāz had lost the will to continue it, and decided, as to prevent anything alike from happening, to colonise the eastern fringe of Meadowsea. Tens of thousands of people from all corners of the Empire, mainly such without homes of their own, were resettled to the steppe for that purpose, and provided protection and tools for building towns, forts, roads being built for them.

For the remainder of his reign, Emcîāz and his dearest wife, Empress Azvarūn of Gildenreach, ruled their joint Empires in a most formidable manner, appeasing hostile factions – mainly those in Gildenreach and the Boroughs – without actually ceding even the least bit of influence or rights – it is said they forced a faction that had plotted their assassination apart only by words.

Such abilities and reputation, despite the unfortunate, untimely coincidence of Emcîāz’s and his father’s reunion and the latter’s death, left them much time for personal life. Thus, Azvarūn, as well as his sister-wife Azełdœ, the daughter of Azdān, bore him many children, the first amongst them his heir by Azełdœ, Emvineþner, and the latter’s sister-wife Azfyȝāþ, Azvarūn’s daughter. After thirty years of reign, Emcîāz died at age fifty-eight.

The Steel, or Dark Era and the road there and thence

Emvineþner, born 263 ACÆ, crowned as Emperor 281 ACÆ, died 300 ACÆ; called the Leper

Coming to the Throne barely a man, Emvineþner’s greatest concern was finding a spouse, and – which was a near singular occurrence – his advisors agreed with him. However, he understood well he required support as well, as the Empire he had inherited was not the most durable, the most populous part being the most separatist. He travelled forth through his, and his vassals’ domains, and hundreds of women were presented to him – all of whom he turned down – whilst intrigues replaced his advisors weekly at times. Had he left a power-hungry council with members from all over the Empire, he returned to a council of Wolves, who followed the teachings of a then still young preacher called Emdāncin – which the young Emperor ignored, travelling forth to Sandbogs – incognito. On his way to Duneshade, he ran into the Lord’s hunting party, during which the Lord’s daughter, Þîłîvrūn, would nearly have killed the Emperor with one of her arrows, which became one of the most well-known stories of all time – the two became lovers, then spouses, staying together against all odds.

Meanwhile, the radical councillors and clergymen around Emdāncin infiltrated administration in both secular and religious areas, and all across the Empire. It was often considered undeniable luck that both of Emvineþner’s wives, his sister Azfyȝāþ, as well as Þîłîvrūn, were dedicated not only to him, but his lands and rule – they issued decrees in his name, direct orders to the Shadowguard and the Imperial Army, who, in cooperation, rooted out many of the radicals, who were executed as traitors to the Empire. Whose ruler had brought not only a wife from Sandbogs, it turned out, as leprosy began claiming his limbs, piece by piece, which did not hinder him at fathering children, such as his heir, Ærsīr, of Þîłîvrūn’s blood, and his later sister-wife, Az’sāȝāþ, Azfyȝāþ’s daughter. However, it did prevent his longevity, as it finally claimed his life in his thirty-seventh year of life.

Ærsīr, born 281 ACÆ, crowned as Emperor 300 ACÆ, died 325 ACÆ; called the Steel

The Conquest of Gildenreach, the Colonisation of Meadowsea and the Empresses’ Purges had left the Empire deeply divided between extremist positions, and, as it often is, a son was the opposite of his father – Ærsīr dedicated himself to politics, thus much that he did not care to take a second wife, staying true only to his sister Az’sāȝāþ. His first act as the newly-crowned Emperor was to dismiss his entire council, everyone in vital positions in administration, even in the Shadowguard, and forcing the same upon the Faith. People of his trust almost instantly filled the vacant positions. Without calling a council, as such had been done before, he decreed the Grand Charter of Obligations and Privileges, which de facto was the end of any regional autonomy, and of nobles’ privileges, except of those of Upvale origin, who were widely exempted from these laws – a fruit of Emdāncin’s teachings. The uproar in all the Empire, from Thousand Cliffs to Capehavens, from the Firths to Outer Gildenreach was tremendous, but, as the charter gave the Army and the Shadowguard more competencies as well, soon silenced. Little blood was shed then, but that which was shed only led to more extreme positions. The Emperor, seeing himself forced to take a more neutral position, amended the Charter he had passed to include all citizens of the Empire, and took Emdāncin prisoner for conspiring against the Empire.

As focussed on his role as ruler as he was, Ærsīr saw the necessity of marriage, and an heir resulting from such. Whilst he had shown little interest in anyone for a long time, except for reasons of state, which led to his sister-wife giving him an heir, Emsāȝāþ, even before his ascension, he developed a certain lust later, and is said to have fathered dozens of children – all of whom were premature and stillborn, except for the last one, whose birth he did not see, simply because he began a journey through the Empire, during which he came to Mermound. Mermound had been the first city of the Boroughs to fall to the Empire, but only physically – which was proven then. The mayor, a local instituted by Ærsīr himself, stabbed him to death during a feast in full view of all attendants, starting a rebellion.

Emsāȝāþ, born 298 ACÆ, crowned as Emperor 325 ACÆ, died 341 ACÆ; called the Ill-ruler

Upon his father’s assassination, the mayors of the Boroughs and the lords of Gildenreach raised their forces, and, as they amassed them, slaughtered any Imperial forces upon encounter. Emsāȝāþ, then in the Imperial residence in Teatsmarket, hesitated with his decision to flee, only gathering the local forces, and spreading the order to all loyal vassals to rally their troops. Rebel forces began encircling Teatsmarket, threatening to starve them out. The city was encircled, two relief forces – one of Darkrealm, and one of remaining Imperials – approached, oblivious of the besieging forces, and of each other, and broke the siege lines for long enough for the encircled and many of their own troops to flee eastwards, taking any loyalists with them. While Lowvale refused to choose sides in the unfolding civil war, Sandbogs and the Firths were not as reluctant, and took the unoccupied Realmsguard fortresses, north and south. Hindvale, likewise, chose, but stayed true to the Throne. Thus, a force of Imperial soldiers, and militia from Darkrealm, Hindvale, and Thousand Cliffs prepared to defend Ærtansville against the rest of the Empire, as Lowvale chose the rebels’ side as they marched through.The irresolute Emperor, the King of Darkrealm – an old man, likewise not the fastest – and the Queen of Hindvale faced a council of numerous knowledgable lords. The battle was over soon – too much did the rebels lack unity, and defence against fire and rocks launched from the hills.

Such was Emsāȝāþ’s greatest accomplishment. During the remainder of his rule, all he did was to execute his father’s original Grand Charter of Obligations and Privileges, depriving the former rebels of the means to start another rebellion. When his only sister, Az’sīnūła, came of age, it did not take long for them to marry, for him to father a son on her, and for her to discover his affair with Azdzāx, a Princess of Darkrealm, and dispose of him, whilst pregnant with his second child.

Az’sīnūła, born 325 ACÆ, crowned as Empress 341 ACÆ, died 403 ACÆ; called the Mad

Under other circumstances, she, pregnant, a mere sixteen years old, a ruthless kin-slayer, with no experience whatsoever, would either have been replaced, or infantilised by numerous councillors. As it was, however, she had a working relationship with a number of highly-ranked officers and officials, whom she gave leading positions, be it in the Shadowguard, the Army, administration or the Faith.

Those she replaced with were loyal not only to hers, but also to others’ ideas – those of Emdāncin, the radical preacher and alleged prophet. His teachings portrayed the people of Upvale as superior, as a chosen people due to their direct descent from the spirits, which, in his as in the Empress’s view, justified their supreme rule over all other, inferior peoples, and, especially in the latter’s view, also anything done to retain that position. Which had disastrous effects on the Empire – the Shadowguard and Imperial Army were expanded greatly, and began a closer cooperation than any before, with the Shadowguard’s informers spreading all across the Empire, gathering information on any suspicious machinations, and the Imperial Army reacting – not too rarely meaning the annihilation of entire villages, the men and elderly being executed, and the rest being incorporated into the Army or the Shadowguard, greatly increasing their size, and thus, power. Other cases are known in which noble families were executed publicly for having done nothing to prevent the uprising against her brother, or others yet, in which mobs in Upvale mobilised for pogroms against non-Upvalers, with Army units being dispatched to aid the mobs. Much more common, however, were sudden disappearances of alleged conspirators, and sudden – and forced – integration of entire families into the Army, or the Shadowguard. A more subtle example of her paranoid supremacist ideas was the purging of Ærtān’s tongue of anything that sounded even remotely foreign, leading to a great purge and loss of knowledge.

She bore only two children, both her brother’s, the son Emcānir, and the daughter Azrēmar, who remained barren due to the high degree of incest, Emcānir having to marry the distant relative Az’sādœ. After a reign of terror of, de jure, twenty, and de facto, sixty-two years, and seventy-eight years of life, she was slain by her great-grandson Ærvarūn.

The Reign of Terror, the Reign of Madness was, though mainly, not solely Az’sīnūła’s doing. In fact, her impulsive – and, due to centuries of incest, mentally, and partially also physically, unstable and incapable – son Emcānir, who was crowned as Emperor in 361 ACÆ despite his mother never abdicating, played quite a role in escalating the situation. Indeed, the large-scale pogroms that were carried out all across Lowvale, the Boroughs, the Firths and Sandbogs – Gildenreach was exempted in fear of a successful rebellion, which was Az’sīnūła’s only wise decision in that regard; Darkrealm and the Twin Realms, Hindvale and Thousand Cliffs, were exempted due to their loyalty to the Throne – were his idea, and welcomed by the leadership of the Imperial Army. When he died at age thirty-three, leaving only two children – his son Ærȝāsīr, as his father mentally ill and physically weak, and his daughter Azcin, like her mother strong-willed, and cunning – the situation had gained momentum, to the point where even Az’sīnūła, who put strategic considerations above ideals, could not halt it. The pogroms, disappearances, slaughters continued as the commanders pleased, and, over time, the opposition that had never been destroyed only increased its strength.

Which came in the form of Azcin, who had already managed to smuggle her and her brother’s daughter, Azełfāþ, and the heiress to the Kingdom of Darkrealm, Aztāneş, to a monastery of the Order of the Righteous Paths – a monastic cult that had formed during the Conquest of Gildenreach and that, originally, settled oases all across the Grand Wastes, and, during the reign of terror, became a haven to many in the Empire, gaining quite a lot of influence – stole away with their son, Ærvarūn, to the very same monastery, where the three were trained in martial arts, and those of ruling, and command.

Ærvarūn, born 385 ACÆ, crowned as Emperor 403 ACÆ, died 438 ACÆ; called the Glorious

The time to strike came when Ærvarūn, leading a force of exiles, and his wives, his sister Azełfāþ, formerly a nun in-training, and Aztāneş, the heiress to Darkrealm, crossed into the Empire. The force of pretenders was, in light up simultaneous uprisings across Gildenreach, the Boroughs, and the Meadowsea Colonies, neglected, especially as Hindvale, Thousand Cliffs and Darkrealm remained dormant. Ærvarūn’s host, reinforced by Sandbogs, took Old Realmsguard without a fight – the garrison defected – and marched into Upvale. Once there, Hindvale and Thousand Cliffs rallied their forces, as well as the Firths, in support of Ærvarūn, just as Darkrealm did. The young pretender was the first one to storm the Round Hut and hold it thereafter, but he was not the first one to slay a ruling Emperor, or in that case, Empress. Once Az’sīnūła and Ærȝāsīr had been dealt with, Ærvarūn marched forth against the rebels, uniting with the forces of Lowvale and Darkrealm, but before giving battle, he entered negotiations, in which he promised a return to the state Ærsīr’s rule, and thus convinced the rebel leaders from the Boroughs, Gildenreach, and the Meadowsea Colonies, as well as their supporter, the so-called King of the Mounted, the highest of the horselords, to return under Imperial rule, and, in the last case, accepting it in the first place, more out of a liking for the Emperor than out of strategic considerations. The Empire, freed from a century of terror, experienced a second golden age – not only did all of Meadowsea fall under its rule, and the realms of Rainwood Cliffs and of Islefords swear fealty to it, but also did the economy see a recovery after the nepotism of the Reign of Terror, also as new markets, such as the Isles of the Moon, opened to the Empire.

However, Ærvarūn the Just could not prevent his dear wife Aztāneş from going missing – and dying – north of the Boroughs, in the rainforests of Marshwealds, which he paid back with a punitive expedition, known as the Holy War in the Woods, further expanding the Empire, but also could he not hold the tide against what would become known as the Sunrise Invasion – volcanic activity driving the people of Nevercold from their land, and, with fire and sword, they came to the shores of Thousand Cliffs, clashing with the full force of the Imperial Army, a battle which cost Ærvarūn his life, after fifty-three years of life and thirty-five years of rule. De jure, he left the Empire to his son by Azełfāþ, Ærȝarūn, and that one’s wives, Azemar, daughter of Aztāneş, and the heiress to the Isles of the Moon, Þîłāzis.

The Sunrise Invasion and its Aftermath

Ærȝarūn, born 420 ACÆ, crowned as Emperor 444 ACÆ, died 467 ACÆ; called the Great

The Battle on the Bloody Sands, fought between the full force of the Imperial Army, reinforced by militias, led by Emperor Ærvarūn, and the warriors of Nevercold, dozens of whom fought mounted on dragons, led by High King Aitor, was the disastrous beginning of the Sunrise Invasion. Both leaders died, and the Imperial Army, never having faced a foe in the air, was forced to retreat, for the covering of which the Queen of Hindvale sacrificed herself, and her troops. Ærȝarūn and his vassals led the host inland, and agreed to cease fighting until they would find a way to fight dragons, meaning they would have most of the host return home, only several thousands fleeing together with Ærȝarūn and his wives to the Isles of the Moon. The Sunthede, or People of Nevercold, named for their only god, took Mornguard, and swept across the land, also taking Gorgeguard, and even Old Realmsguard, where they gathered to choose a new High King. Nahia, also known as Azbiār, became that patriarchal people’s first High Queen, and began her conquest of the Empire. However, Ærȝarūn did not remain dormant, despite his depressed state. In fact, the leadership of the Empire – the Emperor himself, his wives, the Lords of Sandbogs and the Firths, the Mayor-King of the Boroughs, the Chancellor of Gildenreach, the King of the Mounted, the King of Lowvale, the Emperor’s brothers – twins, and both Generals – and Empress dowager Azełfāþ – gathered on the Isles of the Moon quite regularly to plan their next steps, the first of which was scouting the Empire – which Ærȝarūn decided to do in person, disguised as a merchant.

What happened during that scouting is subject to many a legend. It is generally agreed that scattered Imperial units were reorganised in these four years, that the only remaining member of the Gens Amazona, the ruling dynasty of Hindvale, Kæso Amazonus Rufus, was smuggled into safety, and that Ærȝarūn first encountered his – surprisingly benevolent – opponent, High Queen Nahia, who had managed to take most of the Empire and rule it, facing her in a conversation in a tavern in Ærtānsville. What is subject to legend, however, is the most popular part of the entire mission – the fusion of Ærȝarūn and Az’silvās, the patron spirit of the Empire, taking the form of a giant white she-wolf. It is said that thus, the weak, bookish Ærȝarūn received powers previously unknown to him, to harvest others’ souls, which made him the strong ruler he became, but also that his wife Þîłāzis was the first victim, or rather, a sacrifice to the cause. Be that as it may, Ærȝarūn returned to the Isles of the Moon alone, and began planning to take back his Empire. Such occurred half a year later, and the remnants of the Imperial Army sailed down the Gildenstream to the Mer, where they camped, together with forces from Meadowsea, Gildenreach, and militias, not far from the Sunthede’s camp. At night, the former struck, and stormed into the latter’s camp, Ærȝarūn downing any dragons that got to take off, and later facing the High Queen, and making her his retainer accoring to her people’s traditions. The Battle by the Mer the Empire won, at the cost of, amongst others, one of the Emperor’s two twin brothers. She, however, had left a second force at Old Realmsguard, and thus, the Imperial force marched at the impregnable fortress, and stormed it through caves, an assault during which Ærȝarūn’s sister-wife Azemar was felled. The Sunthede defeated, Ærȝarūn was crowned Emperor at last, and, after years of personal convergence, he and Nahia, or Azbiār, married, a union of two of the world’s oldest dynasties.

His reign itself was marked by efforts to integrate the Sunthede into the Empire, into the Imperial Army, to be exact, and by his policy of rapprochement between all kinds of enemies that arose in his Empire, which, though on its knees, was stronger than ever before, for it was united in spirit.

Whilst the Empire was rebuilding from an at times excessively brutal – though failed – war of conquest, and Ærȝarūn had lost most of his family, he was not slow to arrange for replacements once he was married. Not long before he died at age forty-seven, he handed the Throne over to his and Nahia’s daughter Azcin’nis – to her, even though they had two sons, as she is said to have inherited his powers, to have been Az’silvās’s host.

The Reign of the Undying

Azcin’nis, born 449 ACÆ, crowned as Empress 467 ACÆ, died 1204 ACÆ; called the Undying

Upon his death, Ærȝarūn and Nahia left several potential heirs, two sons, even. However, their preference was clear, as only one of their children had received training the arts of ruling, of leading, of warfare in every regard, of survival, of writing, and alike – Azcin’nis. The reason is believed to be the belief she had inherited her father’s spiritual component, she was thought to have been the host of the patron spirit of her home, her people, her dynasty, Az’silvās. Whatever the reason, not long after her official appointment as heir, her parents died under suspicious circumstances, though it is generally believed they committed suicide out of their own accord. Now the most powerful ruler, perhaps of all time, the relatively short young woman decided to revive an ancient tradition that had not been practised for centuries – a rite of passage just as well as a coronation ceremony that involved the new, at that time, Empress, and originally, chieftain, to prove physical endurance and strength, by – stripped naked – walk through the floods of the Clearwater, to ford the Gildenstream, to hold a ceremony including a duel on the Field of Kinsmen, and to ford the Gildenstream again, to claim the Round Hut, and thus, overlordship over all who had been ruled by the previous one ruling from it, all before all noble vassals of the previous ruler. Despite her accession taking place in the coldest winter of the entire century, she would not falter, and thus, according to most ancient laws, was the first rightful ruler of the Holy Vale and all her vassals in centuries.

She inherited an Empire most united, yet least powerful – for the support of the Boroughs and Gildenreach in war, her father, and his father before him, had had to cede powers to their vassals, and the war they had fought had forged them, Emperor, Kings and Queens, Stewards all alike, together. This was what she sought to change. Alongside the Imperial Army, the Imperial Mint, the Brotherhood that Guards the Throne from the Shadows, or Shadowguard, and the Clergy, she created another imperial institution aimed at making the Empire a more united and powerful state, namely by the removal of traditional regional authorities, meaning the nobility – the Imperial Chancellery, tasked with taxation, tolls, customs, jurisdiction, and, overall, administration. Given the enormous lifespan – paired with eternal youth – her powers granted her, she decided to avoid the mistakes her predecessors made when introducing similar concepts, and took her time with the Chancellery. First introduced twenty years into her reign, it was at first no more than imperial assistance for regional rulers in financial matters, the other competencies added over decades, so few would notice the development.

However, not all developments during her reign were consequences of her own actions – in fact, the perhaps most influential one out of all was a consequence of her father’s reign, namely, the rise of the Faith of the Holy Flame, or rather, its foundation. Heavily influenced by teachings of the Order of the Righteous Paths, the faith of the Sunthede, and the prophecies of Emdāncin, a clergyman in the Boroughs known as Ardashir, whose ancestors had all been slaves or alike, formulated teachings of his own, in which he demanded a rather celibate way of life, the acceptance of one single deity, appearing in the form of fire, to whom all mankind, as he demanded it, would be subjects, and before whom all would be equal, he demanded that all justice and power shall lay in the hands of the faithful, as the god’s envoys to man, and also that his followers should spread the word of the god by all means they see fit. He gathered followers around him, most notably the Imperial soldier Argider, who was of Sunthede ancestry, and who interpreted Emdāncin’s most famous prophecy, in combination with Ardashir’s teachings, as a call for rebellion against the Empire. When authorities heard of the then small sect, Ardashir, Argider and others were apprehended, and, according to legend, unsuccessfully burnt at the stake, before being hanged. This did not stop the spread of the Faith, as its teachings very well fit what many under Azcin’nis’s rule demanded, and offered – radical – solutions to common problems of these days.

Even though it was revolutionary, warlike and most radically and explicitly defied Imperial authority, the Empress herself ignored the Faith for a long time, even when, in the two-hundredth year of her reign, only about hundred-twenty years after Ardashir’s death, a census was taken in the Empire, and almost a tenth of its people confessed believing in the Faith’s teachings. The Empress continued her questionable way of life – oftentimes slaying those she had lain with for years, of whom there were not few, vanishing for years to hunt who- and/or whatsoever she considered worth hunting, be it game, bandits, slavers, members of organised crime, or even once joining the Order of the Righteous Paths, before vanishing thence as well. All in all, she was a careless ruler once she had established her system based on the Imperial Chancellery, which allowed the Empire to function even without a ruler. That very same system, however, was, due to its omnipotence and the lack of any controlling instance, prone to despotism and corruption, with grave consequences – not only were Imperial Chancellors too egocentric to redistribute grain and alike, and thus failed to prevent a famine, further widening the Faith’s power, but also could nothing prevent the rise of Rostislav, who would rule Thousand Cliffs not unlike the Boroughs in the Steel Era, and the rise of Dariush, who, as a fanatic follower of the Faith, would misuse its teachings to justify demands for the reintroduction of slavery in the Boroughs. At the same time, the old regional elites had, at long last, realised how much that system had cost them, and several factions formed, aiming either at the dissolution of the Empire, another one ruling it, or a return to its original organisation. One of them, headed by the Queen of the Isles of the Moon, Marama, even managed to infiltrate the Empress’s guard, the Wolfguard – which she had formed from exclusively out of Sunthede warriors and Upvalers, and whose armours resembled wolves and dragons.

When these developments came to Azcin’nis’s attention, in the three-hundred third year of her reign, she returned to her duties as Empress, and marched, with a small force of the Imperial Army, agents of the Shadowguard, and the Wolfguard, to Teastmarket, to force Dariush to abandon his intentions.

The Grand Deluge began only weeks later, when the shared envoy of all those opposing Azcin’nis, a merchant from Thousand Cliffs called Elric who, due to his murder of Rostislav, had been chosen their lord, failed to negotiate with the Empress, and did not return. Before the gates of Teastmarket, the Empress’s force positioned itself, and let the rebels’ – mainly men of the Boroughs then – charge come at them. When the Empress began a second charge, and was surrounded by foes, the Wolfsguard came to assist and knocked her unconscious, them and the rest of her former force soon abandoning the battlefield. Whilst she was recovering with the help of Elric, who became her lover and whom she bore a child, who was stillborn, disunity arose amongst the rebels, as she was believed dead. Out of many small factions, such as those demanding the dissolution of the Empire and all related to it, or independence of Gildenreach, and every single city of the Boroughs, four major ones rose, first of all, the one around Queen Lucretia Amazona Rufa of Hindvale, who demanded a return to original Imperial laws, or else independence of their members – which were Hindvale, Thousand Cliffs, Sandbogs, the Firths and Lowvale – secondly, Dariush’s faction, encompassing the Boroughs, Darkrealm, the Capehavens, Rainwood Cliffs and the Drymounts, and, notably, one of the Empress’s former lovers, Layla, demanding either the conversion of the Empire according to the Faith’s teachings, including slavery of heathens, or else independence of its members, thirdly, the faction of all Gildenreach, demanding one of the Imperial line of Gildenreach to sit the Imperial Throne and lacking an actual leader, and fourthly, Marama’s faction, whose members ruled the Isles of the Moon, all the Marshweald, and the Marshmounts, and whose greatest goal was no more than gaining power, preferably with one of theirs on the Imperial Throne. After almost three years of recovering and almost absolute absence from political matters, Azcin’nis reappeared in Upvale. In these three years, the rebels had mainly fought each other, as their goals were not compatible with each other, and, although his fanatics won most their battles, Dariush’s resources were being drained heavily.

Having travelled much of the Empire incognito before, Azcin’nis knew of ways to get around, and managed to ally with the till then neutral horselords of Meadowsea, as well as with Queen Lucretia. Together with the remnants of the Imperial Army, they managed to annihilate Dariush’s forces climbing the road into Lowvale, and even kill their leaders. By making use of expertise and the terrain, they routed the forces of Gildenreach, as well as those of Queen Marama’s.

At the end of the Grand Deluge, which had lasted seven years, great tracts of land were devoid of people, especially in the Boroughs, plague and bandits roamed the land, and great riches had been wasted on warfare. At the end of the Grand Deluge, expectations were high that the old, feudal system would be reintroduced, and a council convened at Teatsmarket almost a year afterwards. The arrest of all participants was unexpected, as was the introduction of the Lawguard, a force akin the Imperial Army and the Shadowguard both, tasked with overseeing the correct execution of Imperial law, and with overseeing the Imperial Chancellery, as was the further limitation of regional rulers’ powers. Even though the Empire lay in shambles, it was more powerful, more influential than any before.

What followed was, against all expectations, a second golden age. The Imperial Chancellery, widely purged of corruption, despotism and fanaticism, forced, upon the Empress’s order, the rebuilding of whatsoever was destroyed during the Grand Deluge, as well as a repopulation of depeopled areas. The Imperial Army, together with the Shadowguard, began hunts on gangs of bandits and slavers and alike, in which the Empress gladly took part. After the ordeal of restoration, several occurrences greatly affected the entire Empire – namely, the construction of seafaring ships in Capehavens and Thousand Cliffs, the advent of natural sciences, and the invention of the printing press. Whilst all these developments took decades to fully take effect, a general upwards trend can be noted in economy. This age also saw great tolerance – for example was the Faith of the Holy Flame acknowledged by the Throne, and granted the right of free religious practice, and laws were passed, making the common practice of translation of official decrees and alike into local languages an official one.

Despite the Empire tightening its grasp on its people during that time, not unlike in the Steel Age, it was done subtly, and with wiser intentions. Even though the Shadowguard’s agents were, undercover, at virtually every corner, even though censorship accompanied the first opportunity of spreading one’s work widely, even though executions were more common then than in any other period of Imperial history, even though Imperial laws restricted personal freedoms more than ever, the Empire flourished in near every regard – mainly because many restricting laws were taken laxly, and most of those executed had actually committed capital crimes, such as corruption, murder, or rape.

Perhaps the greatest sign of those times’ developments was the foundation of the Imperial Academy of Sciences and Arts by the Empress Azcin’nis herself, in the four-hundredth year of her reign. Opposite to the Imperial Palace of Teatsmarket, a complex equally big was built, which would come to house students of physics and medicine, language and law, and many more, as well as the biggest collection of books to date. The Imperial Academy was open to anyone then – being financed with taxes – and all students were to be treated equally, though in practice, that was taken lightly. Similar institutions sprang up all across the Empire, such as Her Majesty’s University of Hindvale, the Imperial Gildenreach College, and the Temple University of Darkrealm.

Overall, the roughly two centuries after the Grand Deluge were perhaps the Empire’s peak of power.

Then, however, began the Imperial Faith, against the Empress’s will, and together with the Lawguard and the Shadowguard, to formulate an answer to the Faith of the Holy Flame. This answer was formulated in a book known simply as Heresy, and was quickly spread across the ever-growing literate population, and written in a sensational way, which won them many followers. The Imperial Faith began organising abductions, lynchings, and, generally, summoned its followers to violence towards the Faith. What the Imperial Faith did then is generally considered an answer not only to the Faith of the Holy Flame, but also to Empress Azcin’nis’s long-term plans, as these actions stretched over a period of more than half a century. All this was done to provoke the followers of the Holy Flame to act rashly, hot-headedly – which they did. Teatsmarket, although always having been a melting pot of cultures, was ethnically and religiously divided, in the physical sense. One of the neighbourhoods was inhabited solely by followers of the Holy Flame, who, at the Moonsdayfest of the Month of the Wolf, struck back for the injustice of the previous years, and are – exaggeratedly – said to have burnt down half the city. One way or another, the clergy of the Holy Flame had apparently been planning to strike back, and did just that – pogroms began to take place throughout the Boroughs, Darkrealm, Capehavens, and in near every urban centre, the conflict soon escalating.

The Mad Blight was the name later assigned to what it erupted into. The escalation came when outraged and enraged fanatics of the Holy Flame struck a fortress of the Imperial Army, slaughtering all the unsuspecting soldiers. The Empress saw herself forced to intervene in a conflict she had tried to prevent, supporting a side she knew had done great wrong. Nonetheless, the Imperial Army was mobilised, and the Shadowguard received orders to resume activities last done in the Steel Era. Other than then, however, did the Throne order the internment of all fanatics – including those within the Shadowguard, Lawguard, and the Imperial Faith the Empress knew had caused this. However, raging bands of fanatics still ranged the land, the Holy Flame seemed to strike back not only for relatively recent injustice, but for their defeat in the Grand Deluge, and struck back horribly, oftentimes slaughtering entire villages for sake of killing infidels.

In theory, the Empress supported the Imperial Faith, in practice, she, and the Imperial Army, had both sides against them, which, combined with the scatteredness of the Army’s units, as well as the disruption of communication with local commanders and leaders, forced the Imperial Army to relative idleness in the beginning, in turn leading to unhindered violence between fanatics of both sides, and of fanatics against civilians all throughout the Empire.

This greatest of rebellions had spread even further than the Grand Deluge – the printing press and its fruits had reached even the most remote valleys in Thousand Cliffs and virtually every bush of grass in Meadowsea. However, other than previous rebellions, in which organised forces had fought each other from the beginning, the fanatics had yet to organise, and that they did – soon enough, not peasants with pitchforks and torches roamed the lands, but armoured and armed brigands, with ranks, a chain of command, and even generals who would hold councils to decide what to do best. Murderous, rapacious, fanatic armies of both sides with strengths well in the tens of thousands roamed every corner of the Empire after several years, bringing with them death and pain in all its forms, from torture to plagues.

The tide turned only when, thirteen years into chaos, on either side, generals arose that would see the greatest enemy in each other, leaving behind devastated lands where remainders of Imperial forces still lived. As once in the Grand Deluge, the Empress Azcin’nis could muster only a fraction of what she could have mustered, had she anticipated as much earlier. However, the Imperial Army has almost always had one great advantage over its enemies: its men and women lived their whole lives to fight, or train others to do so. They were almost always more disciplined and proficient in battle than their opponents – and this rebellion was no exception to that rule. Whilst the fanatics certainly had morale on their side, and perhaps also experience, they were no match for the Empire’s shield-walls and crossbows, or for their heavy cavalry. Using the principle of divide and conquer, Empress Azcin’nis defeated relatively small forces using a combination of traditional Imperial tactics combined with guerrilla ones, crushing more and more of the fanatics, until, finally, she decided it would be time to take on their main forces. Above Teatsmarket, on the slopes of the Teats, the two forces, attempting to battle each other in the middle, stormed against the Imperial forces, and were defeated. After plague devastation, rape, pillaging and fanaticism had ruled the Empire for twenty-seven years, order returned.

What followed was not too dissimilar to the aftermath of the Grand Deluge, with the difference almost a twentieth of the Empire’s overall population had found its death in the war, if not more, as censuses tell us. Apart from that, there was the difference that Empress Azcin’nis was not amused by those responsible for the slaughter, and conducted purges, first of the Shadowguard and the Lawguard – which she did herself – then of the Imperial Faith, and the Faith of the Holy Flame, the Imperial Chancellery, and even the Imperial Army. Whatever trials there were were held in Mermound, and, except for a total of three cases, which ended with life-long imprisonment of those concerned, always ended in the execution of the culprits, of whom there were not few. Another difference was that the Empress decided it was upon time to modernise Imperial law, and thus, on the basis of existing law codes, such as the Code of Azdeȝāþ, wrote what would come to be called the Undying’s Constitution, which legitimised all her measures to prevent civil wars simply with her position. It was clear that, by that point, her patience had worn thin, and that a certain kind of rage had settled in, for the following one and a half centuries of her rule were the time of the greatest illiberty in the entire history of the Empire. She sought to choke off thoughts of rebellion by controlling every step of administrative, military, religious, and secret service authorities, and through them, the public.

However, just as well as her constitution legitimised her absolute power did it offer an alternative in the event of her, or any other sovereign, being unable to rule – the Governing Council, a council whose members were not appointed, but prescribed by the constitution, and included, amongst regional authorities of noble blood, an elected commander-in-chief of the Imperial Army, a head of the Imperial Chancellery, and so forth. It was an institution that soon came to rule the Empire, as the Empress, according to herself, had had her fill of mankind. For decades, she practically vanished, as she had done once before, intervening only in extreme cases.

In these decades in which she was unavailable for government affairs, however, a similar leap forward occurred as it had in the second Golden Age. Most notably were great advanced made in natural sciences, mostly physics and medicine, as well as in philosophy, whilst miners in Upvale built the first steam engine, which then was constantly improved, and used for more and more purposes. Whilst the basic laws of physics were formulated and proven time and time again, whilst physicians cured, or prevented diseases that only days before had killed people, whilst philosophers from the Mudbight to the Unfreezing Sea drafted various principles, from a free market to enlightenment, whilst the burning of coal began replacing wind, water and muscle as means of production, the Empress Azcin’nis was, as told by her enemies, stalking the woods like the wolf she was.

Whilst all these developments took place, and Azcin’nis was unavailable, the Governing Council was sure to make personal profits out of the whole situation, and, on top of that, without actually performing its duties assigned to it by the Empress. Neglect, corruption, and as a result, crime spread all throughout the Empire once again, as before when rulers gave their deputies free rein. And as before, it did not go unnoticed – upon encountering abuse by both, criminals and Imperial soldiers, in a village – and a minor killing spree – Azcin’nis is said to have stormed into Teatsmarket, and began a second purge of hers, once more replacing those straying from her laws with those loyal to it, to her, and stripping those replaced from all titles and wealth. However, it seemed the problem ran deeper than ever before, for responsibility for it lay not only the hands of officials and officers, but in society. Knowing well that exploitation of the lower classes could not end well in the long run, she sought to modify her own constitution, to favour the exploited by modified taxes, which was simply not adapted by the Chancellery. From the outside, it apparently seemed as though she herself was keeping reforms from happening. When, in the seven-hundred thirtieth year of her reign, in many areas of the Empire, it rained insufficiently for sufficient crops to be grown, a famine broke out, and unrest with it. All it took then was someone to channel it.

The Revolution

In the year 1200 ACÆ, drought and famine had already devastated the Empire for three years, and local authorities, either out of self-interest or protest, defied the Empress’s direct order to implement her new constitution. Hunger revolts plagued the Empire just as well as their cause did, and, when, finally, Empress Azcin’nis called a council to resolve the matter of the constitution, seeking to outplay the nobility with the commoners’ support, leaders of a movement to abolish the Empire altogether arose, amongst those whose support the Empress sought. The most radical of those, who also were the most popular – namely, Ardashir Kasabian, Sirvard Barsamian, Sardar Zaman, amongst others – gathered, together with their followers, and declared war upon the Empire for failing to protect its people.

When learning of the declaration, and of the rising of numerous miners, blacksmiths, farmers, and many more, Empress Azcin’nis is alleged to have said, “There is no way of expressing my lack of will to fight for someone I tried to suppress.”, likely referring to the bourgeois whose rise she had tried to prevent. Unwillingly, she gave the order to mobilise the Imperial Army – many of whose soldiers, and even officers, even Generals would defy that order. All that Empress Azcin’nis would do thence was to fight herself, and to write anonymous pamphlets in which she – though only partially rightly – blamed the new nobility for the state of the people. Said class was slow to resign, and all the faster raised forces to battle the masses of starving people – most notably, Randolph and Royse Yates, owners of mines and manufactures all throughout the Empire, jointly commanded, at their peak, a total of fifty-thousand men. Amongst the Revolutionaries’ – who soon established the People’s Commonwealth, ruled by the Revolutionary Council, in the Boroughs, which quickly expanded – was the young Imperial officer Emarcin Iremcin, or of the Black Wolves, whose quick victories over counter-revolutionary forces won him great fame and admiration, even amongst his enemies.

Nonetheless, the territory of the People’s Commonwealth fluctuated greatly, especially as Gildenreach declared its independence. The war was stagnant, until, however, Emarcin rode forth, and came back with the head of the deposed Empress Azcin’nis. Despite her lack of involvement in the revolution, her death lifted the morale of the revolutionaries, and, in the following five years, Emarcin, then already titled Marshal of the Revolution, managed to defeat all foes of the revolution.

Emarcin Iremcin, born 1179 ACÆ, declared Protector 1210 ACÆ, crowned Emperor 1214 ACÆ

Whilst the Marshal of the Revolution defeated its foes on the exterior, its leaders began falling on each other, and the Revolution began devouring its own children, bringing great unrest into the already frail inner peace of the People’s Commonwealth. When Emarcin Iremcin returned from his campaigns, his fame was no longer limited to troops, but strongest with them, especially with the Guards of the Revolution, former Imperial forces. He used this faith to bring peace into the People’s Commonwealth by seizing power and declaring himself the Protector of the Commonwealth.

However, uprisings of monarchists and other counter-revolutionary forces were still not uncommon, and, as a measure of showing legitimacy – after crushing the uprisings, of course – he made plans, which he executed on the tenth anniversary of his slaying of Empress Azcin’nis – he crowned himself Emperor, styling himself simply Emarcin Iremcin, by grace of the people, Emperor. However, other than some radical revolutionaries expected, he did not reinstitute any former Imperial laws, but rather introduced his own, in the Revolutionary Constitution, later expanded by the Code of Emarcin, which saw the introduction of unconditional equality before the law, absolute freedom of religion, and even an end of persecution of political foes – or rather, it strictly forbids it. His rule, thus far, has seen a great improvement in the lives of commoners, and even greater technological innovation on the basis of the steam engine, which he most eagerly supports. What is worrying is, however, that, even though law states the Revolutionary Council rules in absence of an Emperor, he has yet to declare an heir.

Editor’s Notes

Out of all of Kashibadze’s works I have translated and edited so far, this one is, by far, the least objective one. Whilst he writes – or used to write – most accurately, most factually and in a least biased way about matters of great scientific importance, or of controversial ones, this one appears to be, once analysed thoroughly, pure legitimist propaganda. Whilst his mistakes may seem trivial for any common reader of this work, they are grave ones for one with even a hint of expertise in history, politics, or even biology. Whilst he indeed has trudged the ruins of the Old Empire and libraries with tomes untouched by the fires of the Steel Era, the Deluge, or the Blight, for years to scrape up information on every ruler of Upvale known by name, he made the mistake of not comparing sources, and not considering he used almost exclusively official sources. Thus, apart from focussing on the breeding of the perfect High King, and too little on political aspects of the Great Interregnum, he made one great mistake, a factual one. Namely, the Kings’, High Kings’, and Emperors’ dates of birth and death – except, ironically, the Undying’s – and also the familial relation between them, are sugarcoated, as annalists are wont to do.

His factual inaccuracy is most evident in his description of the Kingdom and the High Kingdom – it can safely be assumed that, for example, the Bastard King Ærdedac did not rule for the 58 years of his alleged sole reign, but that, in his later years, a close relative – a sibling or half-sibling, a cousin, a nephew or niece – ruled through him, in his name, or even deposed him, but decided to remain quiet about it. It could just as safely be assumed he did not even live for that time, especially with the high degree of incest in his family, but that a relative ruled in his name, or as a regent. However, due to a multitude of sources from the time of the Mason King, Ærȝîłtān, onwards, the dates of birth and death of those times can be assumed to be correct, especially since thenceforth, rulers wrote letters and alike themselves, and their handwriting was often rather unique.

A different matter entirely is succession in Upvale. No laws have stated which child should inherit, and thus it was often the bequeathing’s choice, which applied to the Imperial Throne more than anywhere else. It is safe to assume the House of Ærtān and Az’silvās would have died out naturally had they bred as Kashibadze describes it – no bloodline can survive two millennia of incest. Thus, we must assume that branches of the House of Ærtān and Az’silvās developed over time, and that, whoever was at the right place at the right time, and with the right amount of support, would, in the event of the ruler’s death, be bequeathed upon the titles. Relatively secure sources on such delicate matters first appear in the Steel Era, and it is to be assumed that all its rulers, and the ones thereafter, are of one bloodline, just as well as the Mason King, Ærȝîłtān, the first Emperor, Ærdeȝāþ, up to his descendant, the Imbecile Emperor Emsiȝāþ. In many cases, the heirs were not only at the right place at the right time with the right amount of support, but even adopted as children of their predecessors, or at least in their names by their regents. Thus, it can also be said that perhaps a quarter of incestuous marriages were not truly incestuous, and that – though that is derived from other information as well, of course – not a single bloodline has ever been able to rule Upvale, and the Empire, at least not alone.

Apart from these apparently minor mistakes, I must, however, conclude that Vakhtang Kashibadze has created a work that, although horrible as a reference work, can well be used for making wide masses more familiar with history. Or could be used such, if it were more sensational.

Maëlys verc’h Morvan, Imperial Academy of Teatsmarket, Hangingday of Thaw, 1251

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