The Summer Heroes
The Empire Turns Inward
Lynceus was succeeded in 898 BR by his niece, Herodata. Competent but largely unremarkable, Herodata took Lynceus’ dedication speech literally and began the construction of the Great Wall of the Empire (usually simply referred to now as “the Empire Wall”), a tremendous bulwark intended to run the entire length of the eastern border of the Empire, from east along the northern mountains, south along the Iron River, and then west back to the sea. Herodata became engrossed in the project, traveling along the eastern borders of the Empire almost exclusively and leaving the administration of Soren and the rest of the realm to the Dycastery.
Herodata’s health was always poor, and she died at a relatively young age in 914 BR, after only 16 years on the throne. She was succeeded by her daughter, Lyncea, whose health was also very poor, and who was consumed with the desire to finish the Empire Wall. After ten more years (and therefore about 26 years of non-stop construction), the Wall was finished. Lyncea went into a steep decline after the completion of the Wall, and in 926 BR her mental health began to deteriorate alongside her physical health. The Madness of Lyncea, as it came to be known, lasted for 19 more years, and resisted all efforts— both magical and mundane— to cure it. The empress never married and was supported instead by two dedicated handmaids (Naia and Oraia, twins and friends of Lyncea’s since she was a girl); she drifted in and out of the Madness, her lucidity sometimes lasting for several days (towards the end of her life, Lyncea proclaimed that “without Naia and Oraia to guide me, I would’ve been lost forever to the Dreamrealms”).
In 929 BR, Lyncea ordered the construction of what she called the Nonsuch Palace. The palace was to be situated in the middle of the eastern half of the Empire, such that she might “ride a horse in any direction and come upon my Wall”. The construction was funded by the Fortification Taxes, which had never been repealed, even after the Empire Wall’s completion. The Palace was designed by Lyncea herself and consisted of fantastic, whimsical architecture, with rooms, hallways, and towers arrayed in a vast jumble, and the whole complex littered with gardens, mirrors, statues, and art of all kinds. Lyncea apparently designed the palace during the non-lucid stages of her Madness, which has led some to speculate that the affliction was not actually insanity at all, but rather a sign of her extreme sensitivity to extra-planar forces.
The Nonsuch Palace (called as such by the empress because there was “no such palace elsewhere in the world”) took six years to construct and, despite its at-times-bizarre design, was described as a monument of extravagant beauty. The palace complex is not surrounded by any walls or fortifications (she is said to have proclaimed, “Why should my new home need a wall, when the whole realm is encircled by the Great Wall that my mother and I built?”, when questioned on the subject) and the grounds are instead demarcated by a vast line of ornamental hedges (though the Imperial Court Wizards have put powerful magical enchantments in place around the grounds to prevent intruders).
A small town, called Nonsuch, after the Palace, has sprung up since then a short distance from the Palace itself to serve the needs of the Imperial Court whenever it is present. Since Lyncea’s time, the Palace has been used as a summer residence by the rulers of the Empire, and is the only imperial residence outside the city of Soren itself. The Nonsuch Palace was the site of the Treaty of Nonsuch in 938 BR, an elaborate diplomatic ceremony that took place in the Great Hall of the Dead, a morbid and gruesome room in the Palace decorated with scenes from the Triple Throne War and the following orcish invasion. In the Treaty, Lyncea released the Penwith Islands, as well as the individual cities of Darrova and Ystria, from their allegiance to the Empire.
The Treaty was controversial among the small faction of the nobility that still dreamt of Imperial expansion, but was otherwise seen as essentially unremarkable, and as recognition of the political realities of the day. After Lyncea’s reign ended, it was recognized that the Treaty of Nonsuch actually had the positive effect of helping to normalize relations between the Empire and the referenced polities, most of which had not maintained formal embassies in Soren since their independence.
Next: The Empire’s Status Quo