The Summer Heroes
The Empire Staggers On
Disgusted with the civil war, horror-struck at its consequences, and desperate to retain the reins of government, the Dycastery recognized Antonian’s young daughter, Philodice, as Empress, and took advantage of her minority to pass a series of sweeping reforms in 838 BR. These are collectively known as the Second Reformation of the Empire, and they considerably restricted the power of the Imperial throne, while increasing the Dycastery’s power and authority. The office of Tribune was abolished (though this was essentially a symbolic gesture, since the eastern Empire was totally gone), and, in an attempt to avoid future civil wars, the Dycastery granted itself authority over the Imperial Line of Succession and stipulated that a new emperor or empress must be confirmed by the Dycastery before being acknowledged as legitimate.
Philodice reached her majority in 846 BR and meekly cooperated with the Dycastery, generally acquiescing to its wishes as it busied itself attempting to maintain control over the handful of Imperial territories that remained (to the west of Soren, Sargon). As the years passed, Philodice gained confidence in herself, her abilities, and her office, and took a prominent role in the reconstruction of the Eastern Outer City, where scores of refugees from the war had settled, despite the grim surroundings. In 851 BR, Philodice married the commoner Inachus, a brilliant architect who had been heavily involved with her reconstruction efforts. Much of the nobility was deeply opposed to what they saw as an enormous scandal, but a large faction of the Dycastery saw an opportunity to leverage her marriage to help restore the popularity of the throne with the people of the Empire.
By the time of her death in 871 BR, Philodice had reigned longer than any ruler in Sorian history and had had seven children with Inachus (the first two of whom died in their infancy). Philodice was very popular by the time of her death, and viewed by many as a metaphorical “second coming” of the Empress Hyperia. Together with her husband, the Empress laid the groundwork- sometimes literally— for the reconstruction of the Eastern Outer City, as well as numerous other smaller cities to the east of Soren that had suffered during the war. She was granted the title “Mother of the Empire” by the Dycastery after she passed.
Lynceus and Thollo
Philodice was succeeded by her son Lynceus, her second-oldest surviving child (his older brother, Agenor, had taken advantage of the Dycastery’s expanded powers to remove himself from the succession and instead pursue a career in art and sculpture, a career which was actually quite successful because of his real skill and not just because of his imperial connections, and many of his works can still be seen in the new Eastern Outer City to this day). A brilliant politician, Lynceus had married Thollo in 847 BR, who was the son of a powerful member of the Dycastery and set to inherit leadership of one of the most prominent noble families in Soren.
Lynceus capably managed the Empire and carefully spent the political capital his mother had earned by slowly raising taxes on the nobles of the city, a move given political cover by Thollo and others in the Dycastery. The revenues were used to fund the gradual expansion of the Empire eastward, but the expansion was done cautiously and the new settlements were given powerful defenses, while the provinces themselves were crisscrossed with road, forts, and watchtowers. Lynceus earned himself the nickname “the Builder-Emperor” because of this.
Lynceus ruled until his death in 898 BR, by which time the Empire had managed to reclaim its territory all the way east to the Lakelands and the Iron River. Lynceus was careful not to stifle the Empire’s recovering economy, though much of it was stimulated by the ongoing and massive construction projects around the Empire, fueled by what became known as the “Fortification Taxes”. To celebrate the re-incorporation of the Lakelands into the Empire, as well as the 25th year of his reign, the emperor founded the new city of Tholceus and designated it a new provincial capital. The city is not overly-large, but it is massively well fortified and is considered the “gateway to eastern Orem”.
The city of Tholceus is situated on the Lake Argive, and its harbor is watched over by two towering figures, Lynceus and Thollo, statues erected by the people of the city in 900 BR to commemorate the pair (Thollo was determined to make the dedication ceremony, despite his failing health, and he did, but died there later that year). The city is surrounded by large, high walls, and its three gates (the North Gate, the West Gate, and the South Gate) are each flanked by enormous sheets of Sorian Bronze, onto which are carved quotes from Lynceus’ speech during the dedication of the city. The West Gate is the most frequently used, and the Lynceus Bronzes, as they are now known, next to it read, “The Empire must never abjure the defense of its people, who are its only care” (on the left), and, “Our failings ought never be forgotten, lest we never learn” (on the right). During the speech, Lynceus is famously recorded as saying, “This far shall we go, and no further. Henceforth the Empire’s borders are to be fixed; unchanging and powerful, we shall not give ourselves over to the vanity of conquest, but instead accept the natural borders of our realm, forever keeping the peace within them and forever throwing back any who would enter to disrupt such peace.”
Next: The Empire Turns Inward