The Summer Heroes
Following the annexation of the Penwith Islands in 436 BR, the Sorian Empire was in control of the vast majority of the known world, from the city of Soren— and points further— in the west, to the Var-Aldun Range in the north and the Penwith archipelago in the east. Hassuna, the empire of the elves, remained the only other real polity, though it was too geographically distant (separated, as they were, by the Aljudah Desert and the Great Rainforest) from the Empire for the two to do much beyond trade.
The Empire’s grip on the scattered provinces and cities of its realm remained firm for about a hundred years, but decay and corruption began to set in as the upper classes of Soren started to squabble over the vast resources under the imperial throne’s control. As the Empire’s control began to falter, the overt racism of imperial policies finally began to backfire, as non-human subjects of the emperor took the opportunity to demand better treatment.
By the time of the ascent of the Emperor Krastus in 626 BR, the Empire’s unity was seriously threatened. Non-human subjects in outlying provinces were growing more defiant, and rebellious sentiment was being stirred up in cities that had previously enjoyed independence. Orcs, from the north of the Var-Aldun mountains, had taken notice of the Empire’s instability and began pressing through the mountain passes, raiding and pillaging.
Krastus proposed a sweeping set of reforms upon his ascent to the Imperial throne, pledging to eliminate the racist policies of the Empire and bring about a new era of strength, stability, and peace through a total restructuring of Imperial administration. Krastus was supported in this effort by the Populari, a minority faction of Sorian nobility who felt the Empire’s racist ideology was outdated and impractical at best, and immoral at worst, but his proposal was laughed out of the Dycastery. Krastus’ position became tenuous, with some noble families plotting openly against him, but the slaughter of a Sorian legion in early 627 BR quieted dissent, as the gravity of the situation became more evident to all.
Krastus managed to leverage the ongoing instability to implement minor reforms, but these were not enough to stave off decline. Corruption, already prevalent, became rampant, and the sparks of rebellion in the eastern provinces began to spread while the orc threat increased in severity. In 631 BR, the orcs sacked the capitals of two provinces that bordered the Var’Aldun Range, a defeat totally unprecedented in imperial history. Stunned, the anti-reform nobility of Soren capitulated to Krastus’ demands, and a sweeping reorganization of the Empire was undertaken.
The Reformation of the Empire
Noble families that had engaged in more flagrant displays of corruption and disloyalty were stripped of their titles and their—usually massive—fortunes seized by the throne. The Populari took control of the Dycastery and, with Krastus at the helm, overhauled the Imperial Law completely, repealing the racism of previous imperial policy and giving non-human subjects the full rights of Imperial citizenship, while at the same time instituting tough anti-corruption legislation.
The Empire’s army underwent a remake as well, and the command structure of the Imperial legions was significantly modified: Supreme command authority remained with the emperor, but the once top-heavy administration of the armed forces was pared down considerably. The post of Ensi was created, and they were given control of all the legions in a single province, while the position of Lugal was also implemented, and oversaw geographically-sensible groups of provinces. Above the Lugalai was the Rota, a group of three military advisors who answered to the emperor and the Dycastery alone.
Recognizing the need for greater decentralization of command to retain control of the east, the emperor created the post of Tribune, and gave it “authority over the eastern provinces of the Empire, in absence of the Emperor”. This immediately made the Tribune the second-most powerful person in the Empire, and Krastus was careful to ensure that numerous checks on the Tribune’s power were included in the new imperial constitution. The Empress Hyperia, Krastus’ brilliant and calculating wife, was appointed the first Tribune.
Under Krastus’ authority, and with the power of her new office behind her, Hyperia went east at the head of a large force of Imperial legions. Krastus’ reforms (and the army marching east) stymied the nascent rebellions in the eastern provinces, and the Empire quickly stabilized. A ruthless tactician, Hyperia drove the orcs back from the eastern Empire and then turned her attention to implementing the reforms and cementing Imperial control over the provinces.
Determined to setup an imperial power base to prevent future rebellion, Hyperia had the ruins of Morini, the capital of Armorica that had been sacked by orcs, swept away. On the same site, she established the city of Hyperion in 635 BR, and designated it the capital city of the east and Second City of the Empire. Aided by the stabilization of the Empire’s economy— especially in the east— as well as the fruits of the somewhat-successful suppression of corruption and the large fortunes seized from traitorous noble families in Soren, Hyperia had vast resources at her disposal for the construction of the new city. The result was a large, defensible, and well-organized city, with distinctively-imperial architecture (that some complained felt decidedly out of place). At the center of the city was the enormous Black and White Keep, a pair of huge, square castles atop a large, flat hill created for the purpose.
By 640 BR, the Black and White Keep— along with the rest of the city —was finished, and the Emperor Krastus met the Empress at the twin fortresses for their dedication at the end of a long Imperial Progress that had taken him around the provinces of the eastern Empire. Though deeply unpopular with the portions of the population that still held anti-non-human ideals, the ruling couple was widely respected across the Empire for their efforts at stabilization, reform, and the integration of non-humans as citizens. The couple is recognized now for their diverse and complementary skill-set, with Krastus recognized as one of the greatest political maneuverers ever produced by the Empire and Hyperia as a master tactician in her own right.
The couple ruled the Empire from Soren and Hyperion, respectively, for 19 more years, aided in this (and their marriage) by the construction of enormously-expensive portals between the Imperial Palace and the Black and White Keep. Hyperia died in 659 BR, and Krastus— by now known as Krastus the Reformer— died that same year, about four months later (of a broken heart, it is said). The couple was buried in the massive Imperial Crypt complex beneath the Black and White Keep, as per Hyperia’s wishes. Images of Hyperia and Krastus are still extremely common in the Empire (either in the surviving western half, or in the ruins of the east), and their respective images can be found on either side of the Empire’s silver coin, the Publius. Their rule, from about 635 BR to 659 BR, is widely considered an Imperial Golden Age.
The reforms and administrative reorganization of the Empire and its military bought the Empire some time, but also sowed the seeds of its future implosion. Imperial liberalization quieted the movements for independence and the anger of non-human subjects— especially in the east— and the establishment of the new city of Hyperion, as well as the office of Tribune, helped to stabilize the eastern half of the Empire, as well as the northern border. Over time, however, the two halves of the Empire grew more and more politically distinct, as Tribunes began to acquire more power and work around the restrictions initially placed upon the office by Krastus and the Populari.
In 778 BR, the Tribune Alpheus bullied and blackmailed the Dycastery into removing the strictures placed upon his office, primary among them being the ability of the Emperor to appoint the Tribune. Alpheus quickly declared the office of Tribune to be hereditary, and he named his young daughter, Iphita, Co-Tribune. Unwilling to risk open war to remove Alpheus— who was reportedly very popular among the troops in the east— the Emperor Myrtilus made no move to stop or reverse the situation, a move which was widely regarded as his tacit approval.
Next: Imperial Division