Alabastrian Empire (4e Environment)
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Created by the departing Avatar Patrons, the Alabastrian Empire is ruled by Xarlem, one of the few remaining Immortal Deva.
Monarch: Emperor Xarlem
The Alabastrian Empire is located in the southeastern corner of the continent between the northeastern shore of the Savage Sound and the southeastern shore of the Nereid Sea. To its north are the lands of Duat and to the west are the Free Kingdoms of Oncia and Chisel. The Empire itself is a land of fertile verdant fields, lakes, rivers, swamps, temperate forests, with alpine tundras dotting its tall mountains. The mountains are unusual in that they stand alone in the field, with no hills or other geography. They are each considered sacred to those who call Alabastria home. There were once 50 mountains in all in the lands that the Empire once occupied. The city of Downlach is presently in Oncia, and Ynepor is in Duat. Each mountain is named after one of the original Avatar Patrons of the Realm. Atop each mountain is a sacred temple dedicated to that Avatar and a city named for that Avatar surrounds the mountain. In winter the southern Alabastrian Empire gets extremely cold and the mountains are almost impassable. Northern areas are less effected by seasonal climate changes.
The Alabastrian Empire is controlled by Emperor Xarlem, a deva who has received the Ritual of Remembrance, which allows the deva to reincarnate will full memories of his past lives. Xarlem is the third to hold the crown. He rules with the advice of the Imperial Senate which designates one representative from each sacred city (except Downlach and Ynepor, of course). Only the Senate can levy taxes, but given the absolute control of the Emperor over the Imperial army, this has proven to be a weak check on the Emperor's powers. Each city is also run by a local Governor, which is appointed by the Emperor and approved by the Senate.
The Alabastrian Empire has a long and proud tradition. Dominated as they are by deva, they have long memories and complicated and ornate ritualistic customs. They are militaristic and expansive. They rue the day their Patrons left them and believe that only by placing the Free Kingdoms under their benevolent rule will their Patrons ever agree to return and restore the utopian society they believe the Avatarlands once to have been.
Before, the Empire, the Realm was known as the Avatarlands and governed by the Patrons. After an Avatar was killed by the halfling queen Evara and her magic sword Evararm, the Avatars began to retreat from the world, ordering the construction of the 50 cities and their temples. After the construction of the last temple, the Avatars entered their temples and were never seen again. Only the holiest of Deva priests are even allowed into the inner sanctum of these temples today. The last act of the Avatars was to appoint the deva Xalia as the first empress of the Alabastrian Empire.
This age lasted from 1216 to 1725.
Conquest of the Southern Empire
Xalia's first order of business was to expand control over her Empire. She saw the chaotic Free Kingdoms as the greatest threat to the stability of Patronage and her fledgling empire. The Avatars had already absorbed the human Eastern Kingdom into its territory, so she set her sights on the Southern Empire, a dyarchy ruled by a husband and wife. She seduced the king Mnemon XIV, and convinced him to depose his queen, Filia XIII, for plotting against him. Mnemon XIV appointed Xalia the new queen. She adopted the name Filia XIV, as was custom in the Southern Empire. 15 years later, when Mnemon XIV died of old age, Xalia annexed the Southern Empire into her own.
The Second Empire
Having pacified the Southern Empire, Xalia turned her attention further west, but her efforts were less successful. In the Second Empire, she put pressure on the leaders to foster their prince Phratakes to study at the fabled colleges in Aligon. There, he became thoroughly "endeavored" and, with his deva adviser Muso, attempted to unite the Second and Alabastrian Empires. However, his people would not abandon their independence, and they overthrew Phratakes and sent him to die in exile. After this, the Empire ceased any policy of intervening directly in the Second Empire. A shaky peace endured for 250 years.
Rebellion in Dragonseye
Meanwhile, in the Alabastrian Empire's westernmost port of Dragonseye (conquered from the Second Empire), the humans living there began to revolt from Alabastrian rule. Two separate revolts arose simultaneously. The Followers of the Dragon, led by the human rebel Jonnan, took up arms against the Empire, believing themselves to be the "living embodiment of the Great Wheel". The Dodecians, led by the human prophetess Josephine, were a mystical sect who believed that the human epics, the Dodecon and Elemiad had hidden prophecies in those texts foretold the eventual restoration of the Free City of Dragonseye (which would be ruled by humans and free of outside influence). The Empire arrested and executed Jonnan and Josephine. The execution seemed to end the Followers of the Dragon and drove the Dodecians into hiding.
However, seventy years later, another rebel, claiming to be Jonnan reincarnated, restarted that rebellion. This second Jonnan was caught and executed seven years later. However, sixty years after that, a third Jonnan appears and the rebellion begins anew. Finally, in 1386, after the loss of much blood and treasure, Empress Xalia ordered the entire city of Dragonseye to be razed to the ground, and its inhabitants scattered. This meant that the Empire abandoned any territory on the western shore of the Nereid Sea, but it did end the human rebellions. Dodecian cabals continued to operate in secret throughout the Empire, and the Empire banned the Dodecon and Elemiad. Although this did not end the movement, it did quell any attempts to recolonize Dragonseye.
Withdrawal from Dragonseye signaled to the Second Empire that the Alabastrian Empire was weakening. Emperor Shapur began attacking Alabastrian ships and port cities. Xalia raised and personally led a mighty armada to quell these privateers, but a storm caused her ship to wreck and she was captured by the Second Emperor and kept prisoner in his city of Aligon.
A power struggle then erupted between Oncia and Juzhian, two of the other Immortal Deva selected by the Avatars, as to who would rule the Empire. Oncia wished to invade, while Juzhian sought to negotiate a peace. Juzhian eloquently argued that unceasing war would eventually weaken the Empire to the point where it would collapse. The Empire had no true grievance with the Second Empire beyond the return of Xalia. Let the west deal with the west and Alabastria with the east. In the end, the other deva supported Juzhian. He negotiated a peace for Xalia's return which included a ransom. The details of this ransom are unknown, but when Xalia discovered the price of her freedom, she immediately summoned her entire military strength and invaded the Second Empire to recover it. However, by then, Shapur had died, the ransom was lost. Xalia razed Artifice to the ground, but eventually left the Second Empire without her ransom.
Conflict between the Second and Alabastrian Empires continued until 1650, when Emperor Yazdegerd took advantage of the Alabastrian Empire's new enemies to the North to begin construction of a massive wall between the two.
Trouble to the North
While the Empire was preoccupied with the Second Empire to the west, they neglected their northern border. Ghilan and wights from Duat had always harried settlements and ships along the border, but in the 17th century, the attacks were more frequent and bloodier. In 1633, Duatan armies forced the Empire to abandon the city of Ynepor, the first time an Alabastrian Temple had to be abandoned. In 1660, Duatan armies traveled all the way to Aligon and sacked the city. They sacked it again in 1705.
Xalia personally led armies to recapture Ynepor and drive the invaders back. What the world didn't know was that after the fall of Ynepor, Xalia had become rakshasa. Reputedly it occurred when her scouts reported that in the captured city of Ynepor, the old Avatar Temple was ruined and defaced. Her rakshasa form was fearsome and potent, and she was able to drive the Duatans back. but it was also fatal. In 1725, a Duatan blade found its mark. The Empress Xalia died.
This age lasted from 1726 to 2050.
Once again, a power struggle erupted between Oncia and Juzhian. Juzhian pointed out that this was the fruition of his own prediction that unceasing wars would weaken the Empire. The deva debated for many months. Finally, Juzhian took the crown when the great general Xarlem changed his support from Oncia to Juzhian. Oncia accepted the devas' pronouncement and became a loyal supporter of Juzhian. The price for Xarlem's support was heavy. Juzhian anointed Xarlem with the Ritual of Remembrance, making Xarlem the newest Immortal Deva.
True to his word, Juzhian attempted to negotiate peace with his enemies. To the north, he agreed to formalize the borders, and even to allow Ynepor to remain in Duatan hands. To the east, the eastern territories had broken away from the Empire and founded the Sarrun Empire. Juzhian offered to recognize this upstart kingdom in exchange for peace. For sixty years, Juzhian attempted to negotiate peace. During this time, Juzhian formalized the laws of the Empire, as well as it system of banking, its system of governance. By all accounts, he was a wise and just ruler. His reign is remembered as a golden age for deva and eidolons. Great monuments of architecture, art, music, and magic were produced. Peace reigned within its borders, and the people were prosperous.
However, in foreign policy, rapprochement was a complete failure. New chieftains of the Duatans refused to honor the border treaties entered into by prior chieftains. They continued to attack and sack Alabastrian cities and ships. In the east, the Sarrun Empire came under the sway of the zealotry of the Cult of the Nine Truths. They hunted down and killed many of the remaining Immortal Devas. After sixty years, he had enough.
Juzhian's Double Strike
Juzhian ordered Oncia to end the Sarrun Empire and Xarlem to end the Duatan terror. In lightning strikes, Xarlem killed every chieftain in southern Duat within six years. Oncia conquered Sarrun and reincorporated it into the Empire within 13. The strikes were so unexpected, in both its precision and brutality, that no power dared to oppose Juzhian's Empire for another 170 years.
However, Xarlem was changed by his campaign in Duat. It is unclear what he witnessed there, but he became convinced that Duat would need constant monitoring to remain pacified. He and his Imperial armies remained in and around the Duatan border for rest of the Juzhian Age. These lands become known as the "Borderlands".
The price of peace, however, was a brutal oppression of the occupied territory. The remnants of Cult of the Nine Truths made their way to a small city, whose original name is lost to history. The Cult's philosophy never really took hold in this city, but its anti-Imperial attitude did. Anybody dissatisfied with the Empire would find their way to this city. In 1961, the movement garnered the attention of Juzhian, who sent a general to quell the rebellion. He brought overwhelming force against a movement led by a ravin named Corren. Corren's band held out for thirty days in a battle known as Corren's Stand, which rallied enemies from throughout the Empire to arrive and destroy the general's army.
Corren did not survive, but her movement did, founding the Free Kingdom of Chisel. For the next century, Chisel's armies grew in strength and power, beating back the Alabastrian Empire. Juzhian sent general after general with armies to stop the onslaught. All of them were assassinated or defeated in battle. Due to a falling out with Oncia (a betrayal many said led to Juzhian becoming rakshasa), who was now safely ensconced in Downlach, he would not grant Oncia the troops to handle the matter herself. Instead, she recalled Xarlem from the Duatan border. Xarlem protested, insisting the Duatan border remain defended. Juzhian insisted. Xarlem took his armies to Aligon, executed Juzhian, and declared himself the third emperor. (Oncia, a political outcast at this point, mutely accepted the new Emperor.)
This age lasted from 2050 to the present, circa 2697.
Forty years into his reign, the borderlands rebelled. Xarlem deftly manipulated them into becoming the Border Kingdom with no allegiance to Duat. This complicated political strategy kept the border secure for a century, until Warlord Otto conquered the Border Kingdom, but as Otto too had no allegiance to greater Duat, and he boded his time.
After Otto died, Xarlem invaded the Border Kingdom and annexed it to the Alabastrian Empire. That lasted seventy years. However, insurgencies, funded by powers in Duat, continued to grow. Eventually, Xarlem overran the Border Kingdom and began dismantling Shinigami mounds to demoralize the populace. Instead, it inspired a new rebellion, led by Otto II, who drove Xarlem back. Xarlem, however, managed to get what he wanted when the peace treaty with Otto II ensured that the Border Kingdom would have no allegiance to Duat.
After Otto II died, Xarlem continued to manipulate the powers in the Border Kingdom, ensuring they fought one another, rather than the Empire, and that they did not ally with powers still in Duat. This preserves the border for 230 years. During this time, Xarlem needs to take direct action in Duat only twice.
In 2520, three tribes conquer the Border Kingdom and announce their hostility to the Empire. They wage an open war, repelling the Imperial troops. However, during this time, the tribes also splintered into seven groups. Exhausted by rebellions, Xarlem is unable to hold the Border Kingdom. But, to Xarlem's fortune, the seven chieftains mysteriously disappear. The remaining chieftains state they now serve the Shinigami, but the Shinigami have been silent for thousands of years. For now, Xarlem bides his time.
Shortly after his coronation, Xarlem announced a series of recaptures against Chisel, but never took part in them personally. Rather, he left other generals to invade and die on the fields of the east. Xarlem concentrated on the border with Duat.
Meanwhile, the rise and expansion of the Caliphate introduces a new player into Patronage politics. While the Caliphate was mostly directed westward, towards Ironguard or the Second Empire, which it eventually dismantled, the armies of Muhajiel occasionally conquer Imperial lands as well. Oncia, who was then in charge of eastern Imperial lands, continually requested more troops to deal with the threat, but Xarlem could spare no more troops, between the Reconquests and the Duatan campaigns.
Eventually, Xarlem decided to abandon the west to the Caliphate to concentrate on Duat and Chisel. He ordered Oncia to abandon Downlach. She refused, claiming that it was vital to the security of all the Patronage lands that she remain in Downlach perpetually. When Xarlem threatened to have her executed, she renounced all ties to the Empire, all claims to the throne, and declared Downlach and the surrounding territories to be the Free Kingdom of Oncia. Unable to spare more resources to prevent the split (and having already decided to abandon those lands to the Caliphate), Xarlem reluctantly tolerated Oncia's rebellion, and he turned his attentions back to Duat and Chisel.
About 200 years ago General Zhalfa finally turned the tide of the war in Chisel. His strategic genius became quickly apparent, as he cut off Chisel's supports from its other cities, conquering one by one. In 2500, Zhalfa announced that he was ready for the final invasion of Chisel. However, he demanded that Xarlem first award him with the Ritual of Remembrance. Xarlem refused and Zhalfa took his armies and turned on the Emperor in what became known as the Alabastrian Civil War. It took nearly a half-century of cat and mouse before Xarlem finally cornered and executed Zhalfa.
His armies already in the east, Xarlem then turned on Oncia, conquering it briefly. But he could not hold it because both Duat and Chisel would take advantage of the chaos to retake land lost long ago to Alabastrian forces.
A century ago, Xarlem concluded that his Empire could not handle the Oncia, Chisel, and Duat fronts. For the past hundred years, he has been forced to ration his resources without bankrupting his Realm, merely to maintain the territory the Empire currently holds. This defensive posturing has slowly drained the vibrancy from the Warrior-Emperor. He is not a man accustomed to inaction. In recent years, he has receded from the public, making few addresses and few appearances. Rumors abound that Xarlem has become rakshasa, and it is only a matter of time before he dies forever. Already, other luminaries are posturing to replace him. A large contingent believes that Oncia, the only other surviving Immortal Deva, must replace him. Others look forward to a time when all the deva are gone, and the eidolons will govern. (Already, several eidolons have been named governors and generals.) Xarlem is silent about these maneuverings.