Haverford 2013-2014 Graham campaign
The year is 706 AI (Anno Imperii). 706 years ago, the first ships of the Aegean Empire landed on the shores of Elunna, the main continent of this world, from Old Aegea. Within months, Aegis I, the conqueror, had swept across the plains and mountains of Elunna, conquering all that he saw, adding Elunna to the vast sum of territory he controlled. In the next twenty or so years, the empire completed its sweep across the continent and began to cement its position. It built trade outposts on rivers and in strategically important locations. It established boundaries of subdivisions in the empire, each controlled by a single governor. These were the provinces, and there were five main ones (names to be generated at a later date). The emperor himself established his capital in the largest of the provinces, the one closest to the coastal entrance point of his empire. This capital was known as Eastwall. In roughly 44 AI, Aegis I died, leaving his oldest son Argos I to be the king. Where Aegis had been power-hungry and merciless against his foes, Argos ruled with a softer hand. He was a lover of music, art, and poetry, and encouraged the cultivation of the arts in the universities which had been established in the capitals of each province. Thus began the empire’s “golden age”, a decades-long era where great works of art were created, monuments were built, and peace was mostly maintained throughout the empire; by that point the majority of the remaining opposition from the original tribes had been squelched – either by the coin or the sword.
However, Argos I’s reign also began the slow decline of the emperors themselves. Argos was a kind and decent ruler, but he did not have his father’s military mind. In 82 AI a tribe of elves in the rural areas of the province of Jandale (a mostly forested province to the west of Eastwall) began to foment a rebellion due to the rule of a cruel and staunchly racist governor, and Argos was not able to marshall the troops necessary to put it down quickly. The small revolt, which had begun with but a single tribe, grew into a movement of all of elfdom as the news spread across the empire of the tribe’s victories. Elves in the five provinces rose up in defiance of the emperor’s pleas for calm to be reestablished. Small skirmishes were fought in each province for six months until Argos died under the strain of fighting a war. His son, Aegis II, was not so weak. He had a taste for the finer things as well, but he had a cruel streak a mile long in him, and he quickly ordered the garrisons in each province capital to put down the rebellions. The soldiers, no longer commanded to hold back on their attacks, cut down a large percentage of elvish forces. The elves, once a proud and plentiful race, found themselves facing extinction. The rebellion quashed, Aegis II ordered all remaining elves be sent to Jandale, so that they could better be controlled. By 83 AI the rebellion was over, but so was the Golden Age and Aegis II settled down for a long reign of hedonism and rule by the sword. The region of Jandale began to deteriorate, economically and politically, as the Elven masses made life difficult for the governor and the provincial government.
Argos I and Aegis II were both beloved by the human citizens of the empire, but the emperors after them were less competent. The strong tax system created by Aegis I and the layered power structure of the empire created an environment where lax governance at the top could be made up for by other layers of government. The slow decline of the empire kept going through successive emperors and empresses; over time, the funding of art and music that had characterized the golden age deteriorated in favor of funding overseas colonization expeditions and grand improvements to the palaces in each capital city of the provinces. Each city became stratified; the nobles and beneficiaries of imperial positions clustered in the center, and those areas became , and the outskirts of each one gradually sunk into poverty.
By 432 AI, Empress Aelessa I was in power. The empire was slowly coming apart at the seams; each province had started to accrue individual characteristics; each province was developing a unique culture, and resentment that they were all linked began to boil under the surface. Aelessa herself was a tyrannical ruler, and her attention was focused on foreign affairs; she was funding expeditions to tame the wild lands to the west of Elunna, on the coast of the continent called Tawth.
So when the Tide began to sweep over Elunna, she was unready to deal with the consequences. The Tide, or the Creation as the elves refer to it, began in the middle of a clearing in a vast forest in Jandale. It was simple at first; legends tell of a group of Elven monks who took the forest as their monastery. They were praying (as Elves often did back then) for the fall of the empire and the restoration of the glory of old Elfdom. Suddenly, as though some higher being had heard their call, a light began to shine in the middle of the grove. The elves, caught off guard, staggered back, and were engulfed in the light as it began to spread out in a circular manner. The light quickly passed through them and began to spread out, at first slowly but then more quickly, over the entire continent. In the span of roughly a day, the Tide had covered the entirety of Elunna. In a week, it had covered the entire world.
The five elves at the epicenter of the Tide realized quickly that they were changed; they could access forms of energy with their minds that they had never realized existed. They were the first, and to date, most powerful magic users. People all over the continent, in all different races (well, most), began to realize that something major had happened. The ability to use magic was incredibly rare. One in only 2000 individuals had the talent for the manipulation of the arcane. Except in Jandale, among the elves. Half the Elven population had the gift of magic. The five monks, quickly realizing that they could enact the changes they desired, led a massive Elven revolt against the Governor of Jandale and the humans who ran the imperial structure. They were not highly trained in the uses of their powers but they had power to spare. Within a week, the empire had lost its control over Jandale and the five elves, now calling themselves The Chosen, were put in power.
The other imperial provinces fell into chaos quickly, as the citizens of the empire looked to the governors for stability and found no support. The formerly strong federalist structure of the imperium had been corroded from within by greed and sloth. The citizens of each province revolted against the imperium and one by one, the Aegean empire, once thought to be so strong it could never fail, lost its territory. In the winter of 432 AI, Aelessa was assassinated by a traitor in her court, and the governor of the main province took control. Thus the five kingdoms were born. Each province, feeling that it was more convenient to leave the preexisting pronvincial boundaries and names, simply became an independent state. In the main province, the governor became king and many of the imperial traditions were preserved. In Jandale, the Chosen ruled as a council. Other provinces had other solutions. The five kingdoms quickly settled into place and began to coexist. Remnants of the empire still exist in imperial colonies on the other continents, but they look far different from the empire in its glory days.
Suddenly, as if some lock had been released, the Gods began to reveal themselves as well. Some individuals, instead of being given the gift of magic themselves, found that they could channel it through the worship of Gods. They are less stigmatized than magic users, and live among urban populations, whereas magic users, feared and resented by the vast majority of people, holed themselves up in small groups to study magic. Some were also drafted as court wizards by the ruling bodies of each of the five kingdoms.
Another change that happened with the Tide was the rise of monsters: Elunna had always had its fair share of strange flora and fauna, but the Tide added whole new dimensions to it. Undead began to be sighted at night. Ghosts, Vampires, Zombies, all previously tales used by mothers to scare children, were found to be terrifyingly real. Demons, Devils, Celestials, and other off-plane creatures began to appear. Monster Hunters began to be recruited, to fight any particuarly unpleasant aberrations in or near a city. Magical smiths found that the Tide had also created new and special types of metal to be smithed; weapons could also now be enchanted for extra effect.
Each Kingdom dealt with the Tide differently, and each reaction shaped the way that each kingdom structured itself.
Oh, and since the empire had measured time in years since it had first come to Elunna and everyone had gotten used to that, it continued to be used, even though the empire itself was all but gone.