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  2. THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE HOLY ORENIAN EMPIRE: Volume V; The Petrine Empire Written by Justinian Nafis, heir to the County of Susa and Adolphus Gloriana, Earl of Suffolk, Prince of Sutica The Petrine Empire “May God imprint an image by which to draw onto the canvas that is our rotten Empire. I’ve half a mind to rip the whole thing apart just looking at it.” - Emperor Peter III to Simon Basird Now comes the resulting reign of Peter III, which, due to its great length (at forty-seven years, he is the longest-reigning Emperor by far), required these authors to split their initial draft into two parts. With the great war of the Emperor having concluded, we now come to the time of peace (spare the Sutican War near the end). While we praised Peter III for his conduct during the Rubern War, the amateur scholar would do well to observe his actions during peace. It is here that he had the free reins to conduct his plan of centralization- a vision that would be completed by his successors. While many are opposed to even the mere notion of a centralized, absolutist state, his ability to deftly maneuver the political challenges facing him and consolidate the realms and vassals of the Novellens must be recognized. Possibly for a future ambitious ruler, it may serve as something of a template. With peace now secured after nearly twenty-nine years of constant war, the Emperor and his Council of State were now free to focus on continuing, and perfecting, the general reforms that had been made during the war. Although the Imperial Senate’s authority technically included the entirety of the Empire, the war had made it difficult for its legislation to be enforced much beyond the capital and Western Crownlands. Additionally, though the Senate was wholly in support of the Basrid Ministry and the war effort, any legislation deemed of possible detriment to the Empire was forcibly tabled and vetoed. While the early days of the Senate consisted of the Empire’s brightest, best minds, mainly those of the highly educated classes, such as lawyers, doctors, priests, and the like, their own whims and ambitions drove them to create farcical, damaging legislation. One of these men was Charles Napier, who, if The Truth of the Devil from the Sands: The Life of the Wretched Villain Simon Basrid by Stepan de Rosieres, is to be believed, worked closely with Simon Basrid in order to try and supplant the Orenian monarchy and put in its place a democratic government which would allow for every possible vice and sin. While the excesses of this mode of thought would take some time to materialize, it first began with the Napiers. In large part due to the many troubles sparked by rebellious vassals during the Time of Troubles and the Rubern War, the Imperial government undertook a process of centralization and defeudalization, by far one of the largest-reaching, momentous projects undertaken by an Emperor to date. Looking to Haense as an example, where a grand process of defeudalization and the centralization of both the government and military, which had been completed by the reign of King Andrik IV, had effectively removed the last possible vestiges of opposition to the Haeseni Crown. Now, they wished to implement a similar program across the Empire as a whole. The process had truly begun back during the creation of the Senate and the subsequent outlawing of private fortifications and military companies in the Crownlands, but now steps could be taken on an Empire-wide scale. The Imperial Diet swiftly ensured their ban on fortifications and levies was quickly implemented in the Eastern Crownlands, where previously-occupied land was only just being returned to their owners. With this done, they and the Emperor both set their sights on Curonia. Although Emperor Peter III was mildly sympathetic to the liberal institutions that his Archchancellor, Simon Basrid, had concocted, he found them to be simply institutions to rubber-stamp his own authority. He supported their programs of centralization, but not out of innate disdain for the old feudal structure of the Empire or any great visions of democracy or the expansion of democratic institutions within Haense. His own view was far more pragmatic: with the imperial expenditures during the Rubern War and the great loss of men suffered by both the ISA and Imperial Crownlands, the Imperial Crown was in desperate need of new sources of income and more extensive pools of manpower. Curonia was one such place, where the death of the beloved Queen Ester in 1745 had left a power vacuum. John d’Arkent, the disgraced former Archchancellor and Spymaster, had attempted to fill this himself, and, as one of Queen Ester’s trusted councilors, had seized power in 1743. Attempting to turn Curonia into a private fief of the d’Arkent family and a personal source of revenue to pay for his lavish expenditures, including a grand palace in 1752. Naturally, this had meant that the affairs of Curonia were mismanaged to a criminal degree, and during the war it was constantly teetering on collapse despite rarely being subject to attacks from the AIS. According to accounts from an official Imperial commission sent to visit Curonia throughout the spring of 1762, street cobbles were taken to be broken into chips and added to gruel for flavor; the Curonian military had functionally ceased to exist, the province was teetering on the brink of rebellion, and the treasury was being used to fund the construction of a palace in the Duke of Sunholdt’s holding of Selm. The commission recommended an immediate seizure of Curonia by the government on grounds of neglect and mismanagement. With this report in hand, the Imperial Senate urged the Emperor to assume the Curonian crown for himself and restore order to the kingdom. Simon Basrid and his ministers went a step further and endorsed a plan to forcibly relocate the Curonian population to the Crownlands, formally dissolve the Kingdom of Curonia, and raze its lands so it could be turned into a regional ISA headquarters; a plan almost identical to what had been done in Suffonia. Peter III, approving of both motions, assumed the Crown of Curonia on the 10th of Godfrey’s Triumph, 1763. Marching at the head of an army, the Emperor removed the Duke of Sunholdt from power and told the citizens of Curonia that they had two weeks to pack their belongings and move to Helena and the surrounding Crownlands before the city was raised. Stunned, angered, yet unable to stand against this, the populace reluctantly agreed and soon began to depart the city in great numbers. The Emperor, true to his word, ordered the destruction of Curonia two weeks later and instructed General DeNurem to construct a great star fort in its place. Although a seemingly cruel and heavy-handed measure, the treasures looted from Curonia aided greatly in restoring the Imperial coffers, and the former population assimilated well to life in the Imperial heartlands, where they soon became an important part of life and culture in Helena. The destruction of Curonia at the hands of Emperor Peter III, c. 1762 A similar, though far less drastic, process followed over in Kaedrin. As the kingdom had fallen into a state of interregnum since King Adrian I’s death in 1750, the country had been ruled by a council headed by Governor-General Robert Castor Helvets. Seeking the Kaedreni Crown for itself, along with the great properties and wheat harvests that would come with it, the Emperor entered into negotiations with the Governor-General and the electors of Kaedrin to ensure that he was elected as the next King of Kaedrin. After a few months of discussion, a deal had finally been reached. While the Emperor’s eldest daughter and heir, the Princess Imperial Anne Augusta, had been wed to the Duke of Adria, Joseph Clement de Sarkozy, the eldest son of the late Lord Protector Adrian, his younger daughter, Lorena Antonia, was unmarried. Furthermore, the young son, and future heir, of the Princess Imperial and the Duke of Adria, John Charles (later Emperor John VIII), was unbetrothed. Peter III and Governor-General Robert Castor agreed to have Princess Lorena wed to Robert’s younger brother, Richard Victor, and have Prince John Charles betrothed to Robert’s own daughter, Wilhelmina Beatrix. With a future Empress, and a match with the current Emperor’s daughter, the Governor-General convinced the rest of the electors to nominate Emperor Peter III to the Kaedreni throne, which they did on the 23rd of the Sun’s Smile, 1768. No great mass-deportation occurred in Kaedrin as had happened in Curonia, for it was important to keep the local populace in the region, as it was bountiful and produced the vital harvests for the rest of the Empire, and Kaedrin had a flourishing system of democratic local governance mixed with stable provincial oversight that perfectly complemented the wishes of the Imperial government. Thus, Kaedrin stayed intact, though its relevance soon faded, and while it brought in crops and revenues for the Empire, the once-bustling city of Owynsburg faded, and its local politics soon became dominated by ambitious, sometimes criminal, local families. Next, the Imperial government returned to Rubern, where whispers of another rebellion were reaching the ears of the Imperial government. After a thorough study conducted by the Adunian historian Amos ‘the Famous’ of Redenford, it can be reasonably concluded that these rumors were entirely false. In his work, Why I Stopped Trusting the Government: The Great Plot to Slay Rubern, Amos alleges that any word of discontent within Rubern begins with the Imperial Senator Charles Napier, who appears to have been acting on orders from the Archchancellor. Amos further points out that Rubern had been thoroughly ruined by the previous war and had struggled to recover: it fielded no soldiers, produced only a meager income, and saw its population decline yearly as many departed for greener pastures in Helena, Haense, and Kaedrin. While no clear link is made to Peter III, it is Amos’s belief that while he did not actively participate in the plot, he still knew that no rebellion was being fomented in Rubern and desired to remove the last remnants of the Stibor Dynasty that had been a thorn in the side of the Empire for years. On the 19th of Tobias’s Bounty, 1768, Prince Marius I of Rubern, the same man who had fought so effectively against the Empire for years during the Rubern War, and at times matched King Godric in battlefield prowess and political instinct, died of cholera. His daughter, the sixteen-year-old Helene Stibor, claimed rightful ascension to the throne of Rubern and had herself crowned as Princess Helene I. This played right into the hands of the Imperial Senate, which immediately contested Princess Helene’s ascension, claiming that it was required that she gain the permission and confirmation of the Senate. They accused her of fomenting rebellion within Rubern and inviting foreign mercenaries in preparation for a renewed bid for independence. The Imperial Senate implored the Emperor to respond to this defiance of the Empire’s law and authority, which Peter III did not hesitate to accept. On the 30th of Sigismund’s End, 1769, the Emperor issued the Leuven Doctrine, which claimed that Rubern was an illegitimate entity occupying lands that rightfully belonged to the County of Leuven, that domain which was ruled by Conrad de Falstaff back during the War of the Two Emperors. The Emperor further listed ninety-nine crimes committed by Rubern and its people before finally declaring Rubern a rebellious, invasive entity occupying Imperial land. Finally, he ordered an ISA detachment to surround the city, which was soon joined by a Haeseni contingent sent by King Sigismund II. One of the Imperial siege groups, led by former General Darius Sabari, now demoted to captain, attempted to provoke the Princess into a sortie by shooting arrows into passerbys. The events afterward seem rather scattered. In the Rubern’s Gastronomy and Foods Pertaining to our Principality, by Beowulf Eiriksson, Beowulf claims, in a footnote, that there was a dish of an obscure fish served in 1768 to Darius Sabari’s regiment at a dinner parley hosted by the Princess that poisoned the whole table barring Darius Sabari, who puked out the attempted assassination. However, in A Exhortation and History of the Holy Canonist Faith by Father Paul of Savoy, Father Paul remarks that the regiment under Darius Sabari’s command attempted to kill the Princess in the safety of the Ruberni Cathedral, but seeing through these tricks, the Princess stopped the men short of the Cathedral steps and shot dead all men besides Darius Sabari. Depending on the source, what comes next is clear. The Princess Helene drove out the men, with their commander marching back to the capital of Helena. He was greeted by Simon Basrid, who offered him his position as general again for his ‘successful campaign’ against the Ruberni folks. Princess Helene, on the other hand, began to consolidate power. She mustered a larger militia in an effort to get ready for a more coordinated attack to be sent to dispatch her from the position of Princess. After signing an agreement to have Lucien de Bar, a famous general in the east, dispatch his army to assure the security of Rubern, the Princess fell ill. Sources, again, disagree as to what happened next. Some point to her sending a first letter to the Kingdom of Norland to yield her principality to them. However, this is a highly contested point, as none of the Norlanders after Godric could read, let alone figure out which end of a pen to use to send a letter back. These authors are stunned at this conclusion even being raised. A lost will, recently recovered, suggests that she wished to cede the lands of Rubern to the Haeseni, though this is difficult to confirm. All that can be attested to from records at the time is that some skirmishing occurred between the De Bar mercenaries and the ISA contingents, though these were infrequent and indecisive. Princess Helene, herself a pious, reasonable soul, appealed to the High Pontiff, James II. James II, made High Pontiff in 1753, was known to be a good-hearted, reasonable, and just man who stuck to his principles and attempted to serve as a unifier and mediator among the human realms. Incorruptible and brilliant, it seemed that he would support Princess Helene’s cause and attempt to broker a diplomatic settlement. However, in a shocking twist, Princess Helene’s words fell on deaf ears, and the High Pontiff ordered that, as penance, she would submit to the Emperor and return to him the lands she occupied so that Leuven might be restored. Scholars are divided on how to interpret this act by James II, as some note that he was very much a follower of Daniel VI and believed in the general unification of man under more liberal, partially-democratic reforms. However, he was also very hesitant to involve himself in politics, and avoided using his position for much more than mediation. Because of this, other scholars contest that the High Pontiff truly believed that Rubern was attempting some sort of rebellion and aiming to topple the Fidei Defensor, as had been their plan up until the end of the Rubern War eight years ago. Regardless, Princess Helene’s appeal to the High Pontiff would be her last attempt to save Rubern, and on the 3rd of Godfrey’s Triumph, 1769, she surrendered Rubern to the ISA-Haeseni army. After forty five years, a short, yet eventful time marked by wars, defiances, and plots, the Principality of Rubern was dissolved. What followed was a series of reorganizations and agreements, where the County of Leuven was reorganized in 1772 and given to Armande de Falstaff, the son of the late Conrad de Falstaff. As an act of mercy by the Emperor, Helene Stibor was allowed to retire to a small estate in Kaedrin, where she would perish in 1771 after contracting scarlet fever. With Curonia razed and its people relocated, Kaedrin firmly in the grasp of pro-Imperial authorities, and Rubern being dismantled and its lands given to one of Peter III’s staunch supporters, the program of centralization had, so far, been a resounding success. Around this time as well, the Pale of Aldemar, a home for all Imperial elves, was founded, with the famed Kairn Ithelanen being named its governor. Joining Kairn were the Sons of Malin, a formidable mercenary company of elves that had supported the Empire during the Rubern War. This new elven settlement provided the Empire with a source of scholarship and magic that had previously been more difficult to obtain with a human populace, and showed the rest of the world the ambitions of the new ‘Petrine Empire’, a name that had been given by recent historians, owing to the Petra River that the current city of Vienne lay upon, despite Peter III, Anne, and Joseph II having spent some or all of their reigns on Arcas. All eyes in the Empire lay on Haense, the final realm that had not been brought into the possession of the Imperial family. The debate over whether Peter III and his government truly had designs on subjugating the Haeseni is riddled with nationalistic propaganda. Haeseni scholars point to some correspondence dating either from the late rule of Lord Protector Adrian Sarkozy or the early reign of Peter III that involved a few lower-level ministers expressing their frustrations at Haeseni's failures during the war. Imperial scholars dismiss this as merely the product of frustrations, and instead assert that in Curonia, the government had entirely fallen apart, and that the Kaedreni had always shared close ties to the central Imperial government. From government documents and correspondence dating from Peter III’s reign, it is safe to conclude that while the government may have wished to bring Haense further into a centralized administration, namely through the Imperial Legislature, a unified tax code, and a universal legal system, any notions of grand plans to fully annex Haense are unfounded. This did not stop King Sigismund II, now ruling in his own right, from taking advantage of these worries. On the 29th of Owyn’s Flame, 1764, a number of reforms were made to the Imperial Legislature. The Imperial Senate was split into two branches: the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and two political parties to occupy them, the Josephites and the Everardines, were formed. Haeseni citizens and politicians were urged by members of their government to support the Josephites, who were an openly liberal, secular, and constitution-supporting faction, as they held firm to the belief of self-rule in the provinces and vassals of the Empire. Those Haeseni that supported the Everardines, a more traditional, religious, and absolutist faction, were often seen adorned in plate armor, no matter the setting, and attempting to pick fights. King Sigismund openly questioned the utility of the Imperial Diet, believing that it was simply a ploy for the central Imperial government to undermine Haense’s right to self-rule. He decried any attempts at centralization, calling them a marker of despotism, regression, and weakness, despite himself ruling a highly-centralized kingdom. While King Sigismund II’s allegations were simply acts of provocation, his contempt for the Emperor was not completely unfounded. In 1762, during a visit to Haesne from the Emperor, the Queen-Mother, Maya of Muldav, who had gained a fearsome reputation during the Rubern War for her ruthless, unbending style of ruling, was killed by unknown assailants. In his grief (it was an open secret that the Emperor held one-sided affections for the Queen-Mother), Peter III burned a large section of the Royal Palace, which required extensive repairs and gave him the reputation as a madman among the Haeseni. By 1770, this mistrust, in part due to the failure of the Basrid Administration to properly articulate Haense’s place in this rapidly-changing Empire, and in part due to Sigismund II’s own ambitious stoking of the flames, led to a boiling point, which came just in time for events in the far south to threaten war across the continent once again. To explain the causes and course of the Sutican War, spanning from 1775 to 1780, we must go back to 1762, where we return to the character of Corwin von Alstreim, who, at the exhortation of the late High Pontiff Daniel VI, had spent well over two decades preparing for a great crusade against the worldly demesnes of Iblees. With the Rubern War raging, few cared to join him, and those that wished to could not, as their bonds of vassalage required them to fight. However, with the war’s end, a number of now-unemployed mercenaries, Ruberni and Suffonian refugees, and deserters flocked to Corwin’s banner. By the winter of 1761, he had under his command an army of two-thousand experienced, well-armed men with few other prospects for glory and income. He announced that their destination was the Free City of Sutica, a horrific country that openly supported the worship of the dark arts, the use of necromancy and other taboo magics, and the procreation between different races, even those of a beastial nature. It existed as a blight upon the world, a gateway for Iblees and his legions to emerge onto the mortal plane from, and it was Corwin von Alstreim who promised to eradicate it. As the men marched out, a quote from the Queen Johanna of Sutica’s, Corvinus, has an excerpt of the speech said at the departure: "Let no man, whether of humble birth or of patrician birth, be without knowledge of the evils committed in the City-State of Sutica. Sinners reside there, festering and practicing occult dark arts in an effort to summon the Deceiver. We must mourn for them. Their souls are protected by a dark embrace. We weep today, on this military expedition. For God weeps at the loss of his children to sin." “King Corwin” By the Princess Imperial, Duchess Catherine Anastasia of Westmarch. A depiction of King Corwin of Sutica holding a boulder in his hands. In the spring of 1762, with their preparations made, Corwin and his followers marched south. When they reached the gates of Sutica, ten thousand of the most powerful Sutican necromancers, warlocks, and witches stood arrayed in front of their city, reading hymns from a grimoire. Corwin alone marched forth, demanding that the city surrender to him, turn to God, and purge from themselves the black arts that they had so sinfully accepted. The hellish mages of Sutica jeered and together cast a great spell, which launched a serpent wreathed in brimstone and blue fire at Corwin. The great crusader simply knelt and uttered a prayer, upon which the clouds broke, and from the heavens a great beam of light shot down and struck the serpent, slaying it instantly. Corwin then drew his sword, charged forth, and cut down the dark servants of Iblees to a man. But unlike those who use mortal weapons, King Corwin never hurt anyone he took the life of. They all passed like in a dreamless state to the Seven Skies. The retinue proceeded to storm the city, sack it, and put all of its unholy denizens to death, save a few who exploited Corwin’s famous mercy and claimed that they were simply innocent prisoners like Mika Uialben. In perhaps the greatest mistake of his life, to historians, the Alstreim agreed to let them live. But when looking deeper into the King’s life, we realize he foreknew their betrayal. Even then, the King still forgave them and offered them mercy so that they might see their wives and children once more. After Sutica had been liberated and purified, Corwin was then crowned by High Pontiff James II as King Corwin I of Sutica. The new King of Sutica immediately set to work rebuilding his realm. The capital underwent a grand reconstruction, the government was reformed entirely, and he paid many of his crusaders to stay in Sutica and form a small but professional army. This occupied the greater part of the 1760s for Corwin, but in 1771, disaster struck. By the late 1760s, with much of the empire consolidated into the hands of the central government and with the realm stable, Simon Basrid, according to legend, began to implement the next phase of his plan to make Oren a democratic state sworn to the false gods of the necromancers and warlocks of the world. Seeing a prime opportunity to have Oren embroiled in another global war, the Archchancellor concocted a plot to pit the Canonist realms against each other. Back in 1758, Henrietta Karenina, the Princess of Alstion and daughter of Charles Alstion, was assassinated near Sutica. Although it is unknown who officially slew the woman, agents linked back to John d’Arkent began to spread rumors to her son, Peter Amadeus de Sarkozy, that Corwin von Alstreim was her killer. In the diaries, provided to us by Stepan de Rosieres, of the young Peter Amadeus, who was only sixteen when he perished, he also claims that he met personally with the Archchancellor. During this meeting, he claimed that Simon Basrid urged him to duel the King of Sutica to avenge his mother, which inspired the boy enough to agree. In 1771, he went to Sutica, where he challenged King Corwin to single combat. In fractured correspondence from Sutican crusaders and clergy, it is said that King Corwin gave a chance for the boy to set aside his arms and grievances, and insisted upon his innocence, but Peter Amadeus, gripped by fury, still proceeded to attack him anyway. After a brief bout, the boy’s youth and inexperience failed him, and he was swiftly killed by the king with a cut to the head. However, according to the historian Stepan de Rosieres, using an eyewitness account from a visiting merchant in Sutica, Peter Amadeus agreed to lay aside his sword and forgive the king, but then Simon Basrid, from his offices in Helena, utilized his black magic to possess the young Sarkozy and force him to duel King Corwin, leading to his death. When questioned about the incident, King Corwin of Sutica replied in tears, "In regards to the daughter, I did not slay. In regards to the son, I did slay. May the Lord have mercy on me for committing such a barbaric act." While the circumstances do not matter so much, the outcome was momentous. Peter Amadeus de Sarkozy was the son of George Casimir, the Count of Pompourelia, who happened to be the brother of Joseph Clement, the Duke of Adria and heir to the Empire. The boy’s murder was a slight against the Imperial family that could not be remedied with a simple apology. The Basrid Ministry, after promoting John d’Arkent to the position of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, urged the Emperor to declare war. After details of Peter Amadeus’s death were officially released to the public, the calls for war grew more numerous. All in the Empire decried King Corwin and Sutica, calling them nothing more than bandit states that needed to be eradicated. However, there was one man who opposed war with Sutica: Franz Nikolai de Sarkozy. While Franz de Sarkozy shall be mentioned in greater detail in Volumes Four and Five, his prophetic foresight here must be noted. A prominent Josephite staffer and former Member of the House of Commons, Franz de Sarkozy often frequented both Josephite and Everardine clubs in Helena and Owynsburg, the new capital of Kaedrin, and was dismayed to find both echoed the calls for war. When he took to the stand to urge peace, pointing out that King Sigismund of Haense was an unreliable vassals, a coalition would certainly intervene to protect Sutica, and the Imperial State Army was woefully underprepared for war, he was forced off with jeers and boos. For his opposition to the war effort, he became a social outcast in the Empire, so he returned to his country home in Kaedrin for the duration of the war, not to emerge until 1784. Despite his own relative reluctance to break the peace with Arcas, Emperor Peter III finally relented to the pressure of his populace and government. High Pontiff James II attempted to intervene to reach a diplomatic resolution, and throughout 1771 a number of envoys were sent between Sutica and the Empire, but no compromise could be reached. King Corwin had a few members of his government walk out for their imperial sympathies (orchestrated to be looked upon as a sacking by imperial propagandists under the orders of Simon Basrid). The matter had been decided. On the 12th of Godfrey’s Triumph, 1772, the Emperor issued the missive entitled "A Cry for Help from Sutica; The Alstreim Question." In it, he accused King Corwin of being little more than a murderer and demanded that he surrender himself to the Imperial authorities to be tried for his crimes. Silence fell, and for the next few years, both sides prepared for war. In the fall of 1773, a pro-Imperial coup attempt against King Corwin was launched, but it failed when Mika Uialben shouted out the plans to the whole city for discernable reason. The conspirators were arranged to be hanged by lower ranking staff almost instantly. King Corwin, however, interceded and offered clemency to the group again, including Mika Uialben. In 1774, at a meeting between the Kingdom of Sutica, the Kingdom of Norland, and the Kingdom of Urguan, an alliance was formed known as the Begrudged Alliance. Immediately after, they signed a contract with a mercenary company known as the Hangmen, who were based out of a small castle to the west of Helena, bordering upon the Western Crownlands of the Empire. The Empire, meanwhile, simply mobilized its own forces, and on the 4th of Tobias’s Bounty, 1775, Emperor Peter III officially declared war by announcing the commencement of Operation Enduring Freedom. The operation, designed by General Alren DeNurem, hero of the Rubern War, called for a push against Sutica through the Whispering Woods and, hopefully, a quick end to the war. As they would find over the next five years, such predictions would be folly. A number of challenges faced the Empire as it began its war against Sutica. The first was that the ISA and its officers, while having performed competently in the later years of the Rubern War, where the fighting was dominated by infrequent skirmishes, sieges, and logistical warfare, they were woefully unprepared for a quick offensive. General DeNurem himself had a sound mind for the slow, methodical style of warfare that had led to his rise, but when planning campaigns to take place over great distances, requiring forceful, decisive victories in a strong, coordinated push, he was simply out of his element. Compounding these difficulties was King Sigismund II’s refusal to join the war. When it began, he ordered all Haeseni forces to remain within the kingdom’s borders. He claimed that Haense had no reason to be in the war, and that it did not pertain to their interests. When the Emperor retorted, saying that it was their duty as a vassal of the Empire to support their liege, and that the Empire as a whole had defended and saved Haense during the Rubern War only years earlier, he was met with silence. When correspondence between King Sigismund and the Begrudged Alliance was uncovered, Prince Nikolas Barbanov, the king’s brother and a staunch supporter of the Empire, took charge, declaring that Haense was to fulfill its vassal obligations and join in the war effort against Sutica. Sigismund II, undercut by his brother, committed suicide on the 6th of the Grand Harvest, 1776, and the Haeseni throne passed to his seven-year-old son, Josef Sigismund. While Haense finally did join the war effort under Prince Nikolas’s leadership in 1776, the ISA was already facing a number of issues. Having failed to take Hangman's Keep in 1775, General DeNurem decided to ignore the mercenaries and instead commence the march down to Sutica. This would prove to be a mistake, as the Imperial columns were assaulted by Hangmen skirmishes, which slowed their march to a crawl. Even when the Haeseni army joined them, the attacks did not cease. Before they could even reach the southern border of the Empire, General DeNurem was forced to recall his soldiers. For the next two years, no great offenses were made, as General DeNurem issued an order to never give battle to the enemy. It was during this time that the Hangmen raiders scoured the roads, towns, and farms of Kaedrin, Leuven, and the Crownlands, killing many and damaging hundreds of buildings. It was evident that this was not a viable strategy to win the war, and in 1778, the Emperor ordered General DeNurem to march on Sutica and not turn back until it had been taken. On the 14th of the Sun’s Smile, 1778, the combined ISA-Haeseni army set south again to march against Sutica. For most of their trek through the Empire, they met surprisingly little resistance, which caused the high command to believe that the Begrudged Alliance had reached a breaking point. However, when they finally entered the Whispering Woods, which lay just to the north of Sutica, they were met by a full offensive of the forces of the Begrudged Alliance, led in person by King Corwin. In accounts from imperial soldiers, it is reported that King Corwin met them on the edges of the border. King Corwin was distressed that he was forced to slay fellow Canonists, King Corwin yielded to fate and remarked the most famous line in all of his reign. As recorded by Queen Johanna of Sutica, it is as follows: "We have done nothing to warrant offense to the great Crown of Oren, nor do we spit on its very name. I fight for the Lord, you fight for the Lord. I am human, you are human. We both breathe, we both sing, we both love, we both fear, we both pray, and we both worship. Is serenity not worth more than gold? I tell you! Is life worth not more than war? Is life not the time you spend your wives and children over the hills and roaring plains. Does life matter not to Oren!" A silence was had, with no response. The King, a frown ever present on his face, replied further. "Let no man or woman step into this Holy Kingdom of Sutica without knowing the consequences of doing so. Lord, forgive them." King Corwin began the battle once the imperial soldiers marched into Sutican land. After each battle, the King of Sutica spent hours praying to the Lord to save the souls of the Imperial men he had killed and send them to heaven. According to accounts housed in the Alstreim family archives, King Corwin single-handedly delivered thirty thousand Imperial and Haeseni souls to God. It is also said that he bloodied his blade when he struck a man too close, and wept for the rest of his life for this offense. He is reported to have said the man’s name in his prayers each time he prayed to God afterwards. King Corwin I of Sutica (depicted left) marching out to face an ISA detachment alone, c. 1780 Even though the Imperial dead were mounting by the day, by the summer of 1779, their sheer numbers had allowed them to push to Sutica, where they were able to face Corwin’s army on an open field before the city. With twenty thousand Imperial-Haeseni soldiers facing only ten thousand from the Begrudged Alliance, it seemed that victory was at hand. However, it was not to be for the Empire. King Corwin led his men in singing a hymn, which even the pagans of Urguan and Norland joined. Twice, the Imperial commanders gave out the call to charge, but the legs of their men were petrified, unable to step forward. It was then that the King of Sutica prayed to the Lord, and, with fear in their hearts for the retaliation they would face for opposing one of God’s foremost agents in this world, both Orenian and Haeseni alike lost heart and fled. The Emperor and General DeNurem were aghast at the sight of their men fleeing, but they were forced to follow them all the way back to the borders of the Empire. Knowing that any offensive would be met with failure, the Imperial high command agreed that it was time to sue for peace. A ceasefire was signed in the winter of 1779, and after a few months of diplomatic negotiations, arbitrated by the High Pontiff, a peace was finally reached in 1780. The resulting Peace of Merryweather is perhaps the greatest example of King Corwin’s magnanimity. Demanding few concessions besides defeat, the King of Sutica allowed for regular diplomatic and economic relations between the Empire and Sutica to resume. While this was met with great acclaim across both realms, there were some parties that despised the treaty. First among these were the other member states of the Begrudged Alliance, who wished to march against Oren itself, topple the Empire, and introduce their false gods. The second of these was Simon Basrid and John d’Arkent, the Duke of Sunholdt, whose plot to have the Empire lose disastrously, and give themselves an opening to establish a democracy in Oren, was foiled. It is said that when the lenient terms of the Peace of Merryweather were read aloud to him, the Archchancellor suffered a heart attack. While John d’Arkent had died a year prior, it is alleged that he suffered a breakdown after hearing that a ceasefire had been called and threw himself out a window. For the final four years of Peter III’s reign, peace was had across the Empire. The ISA underwent a great restoration in the aftermath of the Sutican War, returning its ranks to its pre-war numbers. The Council of State continued to administer the realm ably, and provided repairs and reparations to those that had lost property during the war. The Archchancellor, Simon Basrid, having been foiled in his supposed final plot, informed the Emperor that he would tender his resignation in 1783 to retire to his country estate. As a reward for his services, he was given the County of Susa. When the time came, elections were held to determine the next Archchancellor, which were won by an Adunian, Jonah Stahl-Elendil, the presiding Vice Chancellor of the Empire and leader of the Josephite Party. Regarded as a stable, trustworthy, and friendly man, his disposition and favor towards strengthening Oren’s democratic culture showed that the direction most in the Empire desired was expansion and growth brought about in times of peace, not times of war. As his Vice Chancellor, he nominated Franz Nikolai de Sarkozy, who, as a good friend of Stahl-Elendil, and regarded as one of the brightest minds in the Empire, was recalled from retirement. With the year 1783 came the end of the second great enemy of Emperor Peter III, the first having been King Godric of Norland. While the end of the war had also brought peace and recovery to the Kingdom of Sutica, the many mercenaries and crusaders that had once filled King Corwin’s ranks began to leave his realm, seeking coin and glory elsewhere. Soon, many of the Canonists in Sutica also began to migrate elsewhere, choosing an easy life to be found in Helena or Reza over hard work to transform Sutica into a city comparable to them. For all his virtue, prowess in battle, and genius, King Corwin was burdened by ineffective, treasonous ministers, most of them coming from the pre-crusade Sutican population that he had spared. When a sufficient number of Canonists had left, these Sutican, Iblees-worshiping ministers made their move. Knowing that, even with their dark magic, they had no chance of defeating him in a head-on fight, these agents of the underworld instead resorted to intrigue. Taking advantage of King Corwin’s righteousness and incorruptibility and the image of him that had been cultivated as a result of these virtues, the conspirators sought to ruin his reputation among the populace of the kingdom. The fabricated documents allege that he embezzled state funds and disseminated them throughout the streets. A great mob, one whose pockets were rumored to be lined with coins, led by Mika Uialben took to the city and began to riot in front of Corwin’s palace. They demanded his abdication and self-exile from the city for his crimes, which, not wishing to inflict violence upon the people he loved, King Corwin accepted. Queen Johanna of Sutica recounts the final words of Corwin as King of Sutica: “The accounts levied against me are true. I am prideful, greedy, ruinous, and evil. My heart is wretched as it was the day sin entered Terra. Let none who love me consider me a good king, but as one after the Lord’s own heart. If you wish me to no longer be your king, then you may bid me farewell. I pray for you, daughter Sutica, for you are beautiful and more glorious than all of the kingdoms. I love you dearly, and will cherish you until the end of days.” On the 8th of Godfrey’s Triumph, 1783, King Corwin von Alstreim abdicated the Sutican throne and, if rumors are true, took a boat to find an undiscovered continent (later known as Almaris) where he could preach God’s message to the unknowing. In his wake, Sutica would crumble again, though the consequences of the hellspawn’s actions cannot be touched upon until later. 1783 would also prove to be the final full year of Peter III’s long reign. Having ascended to the Imperial throne at the age of thirty-three, the old Emperor was by now seventy-nine years old. His once-plentiful public appearances had been dwindling for years, but by now they had ceased. A few edicts were issued, and the Imperial Diet became the primary authority for the legislation of the Realm. It was understood by all that the Emperor’s long, illustrious life was soon to draw to a close. The winter of 1783 had taken a toll on the aging Peter III, and soon after, a sickness crept into him, which turned into the whooping cough. He had not abated by the following spring, which informed his doctors and family that he had little time left. During the week leading up to his death, no one was allowed into his quarters save doctors, priests, and family. His death came on the 14th of Sun’s Smile, 1784. The last rites were performed for him, and after uttering a few words to his daughter, now lost to time, the Emperor requested his pillow be shifted. He ascended to the Seven Skies three minutes later. A period of mourning was proclaimed throughout the Empire, and tens of thousands of spectators (notably, a few of them were Haeseni), watched as the coffin of the late Peter III was paraded to Kaedrin to be entombed in his homeland. It was not until a year later, on the 12th of Godfrey’s Triumph, 1785, when a coronation was held for Anne Augusta and Joseph Clement, now co-ruling as Empress Anne and Emperor Joseph II. Both were well-regarded, intelligent, and aged: the subjects of the Empire took delight in their ascension to the throne and held high hopes for the new rulers of the Empire. However, despite their promise and high expectations, the tensions between the Crownlands and Haense had not yet subsided, and early in their reign they would be faced with the ramifications of past failures to address the Haeseni problem. If it were possible to return to the past and tell the young Peter Sigismundic that he would one day become master over all the known world, the longest-reigning Emperor in history, his response would likely be an incredulous one. An unambitious, content young noble and minor civil official, any aspirations for a greater office, never mind the Imperial throne, would have been unthinkable for the man, even despite his prestigious lineage. However, seeing within him a dormant talent, the political forces of Kaedrin ensured his rise to the throne, and from then on, the world was irreversibly changed. Through war, peace, reform, stagnation, liberality, and iron-fistedness, Peter III forged a new Empire from the fires of the Time of Troubles, finally bringing to Oren the stability and innovation that had been long-opinionated for. Although his mistakes cannot be denied, namely with the Sutican War, his allowance of accursed democratic, liberal institutions, and his unwillingness to resolve the tension between him and Haense before his death, they are far outweighed by his achievements. A victor of the Rubern War, a reformer of the instruments of government, and a visionary whose dreams would continue to guide the Novellen dynasty for generations after his death, Peter III is, undeniably, a unique character in the course of history, one whose legacy shines bolder, and perhaps brighter, than most others. Vale, Peter III ‘the Old’ 5th of Owyn’s Flame, 1704-14th of Sun’s Smile, 1784) (r. 12th of Harren’s Folly, 1737-14th of Sun’s Smile, 1784) O Ágioi Kristoff, Jude kai Pius. Dóste mas gnósi ópos sas ékane o Theós. Poté min afísoume na doúme to skotádi, allá as doúme móno to fos tis sofías kai tis alítheias. O Theós na se evlogeí. The co-rule of Empress Anne and Emperor Joseph II shall be covered in our next volume of The Decline and Fall of the Holy Orenian Empire.
  3. THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE HOLY ORENIAN EMPIRE: Volume IV; The Rubern War Written by Justinian Nafis, heir to the County of Susa and Adolphus Gloriana, Earl of Suffolk, Prince of Sutica Preamble The production of this historia has been slowed recently due to the state of the Kingdom of Oren. Or rather, the lack thereof. As of today, the Acreans (a vassal barony located north of the capital of Vienne) have won a decisive victory against the Kingdom of Oren, and it has led to the swift conclusion of this terrible civil war we have found ourselves in. While these writers are of the opinion that both sides were equally righteous and loving in their conduct, as true children of God are, we shed tears, for all conflict brings sadness. I, Justinian Basrid, would also personally thank the Baron of Acre for mercy conducted regarding a member of the royal family and ask for clemency for all of the family. It is strange to have started off this endeavor with vigor in recounting the once great Novellen Empire, only for the state of Oren to dissolve itself. To wake and to think that yesterday I was an Orenian and now I am not. The mind struggles sometimes to grasp simple concepts, but the idea of a nationality is something it will never forget. Was the war justified? Was the treatment of Acre by the Crown justified? Was the rebellion against the Crown justified? Can you rebel against the Crown? There are many discussions to be had on the nature of the state that we forget the truth of the matter. These earthly states shall rise and fall as they have had since the dawn of time. The Empire we recount through our tales is not the same as Emperor Ex. Godfrey, nor even Emperor John I. They were mere predecessors to the Orenian name. Let us not dwell on the nationalities of men that divide, nor mourn what is lost to the soil. In the heavens above, there lies the Lorraine Cross, hovering above and reminding us all of our true rest in the Lord our God. The City of Man is wretched and corrupt, brought on by the Deceiver. Humility is always lacking and vain attempts at earthly pleasure are always tried. But in the Tent of God, we are neither Orenian, nor Acrean, nor Haenseti, nor Balian. To seek the favor and comfort from our Lord in the heavens, will bring the serenity we need. “Lord God, maker of all, have mercy on us, sinners” St. Lucien Prayer. The Rubern War “We shall have peace, King Godric of Norland” By the Princess Imperial, Duchess Catherine Anastasia of Westmarch. Done in an Imperial style as a gift to the Baron of Arcishdorf, Manfred von Arichsdorf. After three volumes, we have finally reached the beginning stages of the Petrine Empire, which were marked by the Rubern War. Although not officially ruled by a Novellen until Joseph II and Anne I, the liberalism that defined much of the dynasty finds its birth in the reign of Emperor Peter III, whose efforts laid the framework that his descendents would build upon. The resulting Petrine Empire, spanning from the reign of Peter III, beginning in 1737, to the reign of Philip III, ending in 1868 (though some date the end of the Petrine Empire to the end of the Brother’s War four months later), was the longest-living Empire the world has seen. Perhaps more impressively, and in large part owing to the strength of the institutions built by the Novellens, the Petrine Empire ended not by foreign conquest nor internal collapse, but by a conscious decision to lay it to rest. For this, it is critical that we examine its beginnings, for it is here that the course of the Novellens is decided. As had become custom for those ascending to the Imperial throne, Peter III found himself with a multitude of dilemmas threatening his Empire. A coalition called the Alliance of Independent States, spearheaded by Norland, Rubern, and Haelun’or, was forming; they would soon be joined by the rebellious Archduchy of Suffonia, the dark elven tribes of Renelia, the Free City of Talon’s Grotto, and the Horde of Krugmar, which had recently broken its ties to the Empire and ceased its tribute payments. A number of other smaller states joined this coalition, though they were of little relevance to the larger war effort and therefore do not need mention. With the Irrinorian-Fennic front of the Toe War still locked in stalemate, Peter III knew that he would have to settle for a white peace in order to divert troops from the front and prepare for an invasion of the Empire in order to fully secure Rubern, which was effectively surrounded by the Crownlands, Kaedrin, and Haense. To add salt to the wound, the stalwart, crafty High Pontiff Daniel VI, who had played an integral role in both reforming the church and the Imperial administration, died in late 1737. This deprived Peter III of one of his most useful advisors and forced him to rely more heavily on men such as Simon Basrid, who by now had become Archchancellor. In 1738, Imperial diplomats were sent to Tahu’Lareh, the capital of the snow elven tribes of Fenn. As Grand Prince Aldred Tundrak was both desperate for peace and sympathetic to the Empire, he did not hesitate to agree to a ceasefire, then sign a formal peace, pulling both Fenn and the Reiver mercenaries out of the war. The tribes of Irrinor soon followed, though they immediately entered into secret negotiations with the Alliance of Independent States. By the 17th of Godfrey’s Triumph, 1738, the Toe War had officially come to an end. Although the first phase, culminating in the conquest of San’Strohk, had been a clear Imperial victory, by the war’s end, nearly all of the Empire’s gains had been lost. That mattered little to Peter III and his council, as the survival of the Empire as a whole was now threatened. In early 1739, a controversial incident, known as The Simbad Affair, pushed the AIS and the Empire to the brink of war. A Norlandic merchant of farfolk descent, known as Simbad, entered King Godric’s court demanding justice for a robbery that had been committed against him and his caravan. He claimed that a group of Haeseni knights, greedy for the riches he carried, raided his wares and stole away with his valuables. Simbad urged King Godric to send his soldiers to defend the roads and also extract recompense from Haense for their crimes. King Godric, never one to refuse the opportunity to defend his people, agreed, and issued an ultimatum to King Andrik III of Haense, demanding that he pay ten thousand Imperial marks and execute the knights responsible for the attack. The Lord Palatine of Haense, Konrad Stafyr, who himself had conducted an investigation into the alleged attack, advised his liege to rebuke the demands, as he found that the names of the Haeseni knights that Simbad had given were completely fabricated. King Andrik concurred with his Palatine’s findings, and rejected the Norlandic demands. For the next few months, diplomats were sent back and forth in the hopes of finding a diplomatic resolution, but it was clear that war was inevitable. Emperor Peter III, ready to defend his vassal, summoned the banners of the Empire and placed the Imperial army under the command of Leonard de Ruyter, a talented general who had been a trusted lieutenant of the late Lord Protector Adrian de Sarkozy. The Imperial army and the respective armies of the Crownlands vassals began to surround Rubern, putting it to siege. The Imperial plan, devised by General Leonard de Ruyter, who had adopted his former liege’s aggressive disposition, called for a quick capitulation of Rubern, followed by a direct confrontation of the AIS army in order to push it out of the Empire. It was critical to the Imperial plans that the AIS army not reinforce Rubern and prevent it from being quickly conquered. The AIS did not idle during this time either, and the great delay between The Simbad Affair in 1739 and the official beginning of the war in 1740 was primarily due to the great distances between the members of the coalition. It took months for the belligerent armies, great and small, to amass, but by the spring of 1740 they had begun to amass to the southeast of the Empire, near Kaedrin. King Godric and Prince Richard of Rubern were the principal commanders of the coalition army, though with the latter besieged in Rubern it was left to Godric to organize the invasion. The coalition plan involved a quick push through Adria to defeat the Imperial army besieging Rubern. After this was done, they were to immediately march on Haense. Taking it would mean splitting the Empire in two, which would allow the AIS armies to swiftly overwhelm Kaedrin and Curon, while holding the line against the Crownlands, before turning back west to march on Helena. On the 3rd of Harren’s Folly, 1740, King Godric’s army entered the Empire from the southwest, rapidly advancing towards Rubern and overrunning the Imperial border defenses. General Leonard, eager to meet the coalition army, split his forces in two. The greater part, under he and Emperor Peter III, who had come in person, would meet Godric just outside of Rubern, while the lesser part, under his second in command, General Darius Sabari, continued to besiege the city. Letters were sent to Haense, Kaedrin, and Curon, calling for them all to converge on Rubern in order to overwhelm Godric’s army. However, with Curon too far away, Haense still worried about a possible attack against its own borders, and the Kaedreni army slow to move, they would not arrive in time for the momentous Three Skirmishes of Rubern on the 2nd of Sigismund’s End, 1740. Much controversy surrounds the Three Skirmishes of Rubern, and a clear picture of what occurred is mired by propaganda. It is undisputed that the Imperial army suffered a string of defeats against the AIS forces over the course of five days, and that the Emperor and his Empress, Lorena of Augustin, were captured in the aftermath of the first engagement. However, AIS propaganda distributed in the aftermath proclaims the death of Peter III, claiming that his head was bashed in by King Godric himself. Official Imperial missives dispute this narrative, publishing personal accounts from Peter III himself detailing his great escape from the prisons of Rubern. Discounting absurd theories that the Emperor was replaced by a double, it can be safely assumed that the rumor of his death sprung from the standard execution of a minor Imperial bannerman. To resume the narrative of the encounter: the Imperial army, although outnumbering its opponent, was defeated in a first engagement on the 2nd of Sigismund’s End, 1740. Although sources are poor, some scavenged scraps of diaries have suggested that General Leonard was too forceful in his attacks, allowing gaps to form in the overextended Imperial line, which was soon exploited by the better-seasoned warriors of the AIS. The Emperor, having ridden to the collapsing right wing of the army to restore morale, was dragged from his horse by an orcish berserker and quickly surrounded. The Empress, herself overseeing the battle from a vantage point, was taken prisoner by a small group of Ruberni knights that had sallied out to join the battle. Unaware that his liege had been captured, General Leonard used this opportunity, as many coalition soldiers were more interested in seeing the captured Emperor and Empress than fighting the battle itself, to sound a retreat. The Imperials fell back in good order, and retained the numeric advantage, but had been soundly beaten. That evening, General Leonard was informed of the capture of the Imperial monarchs. Never one to hesitate, he ordered that the battle be fought again the next morning. On the 3rd of Sigismund’s End, 1740, the Imperial and AIS armies fought the second of the three skirmishes. Not wishing to repeat the mistakes of the previous battle, General Leonard took care to ensure his army’s advance was made slowly and in good order. The AIS army, met by a more cohesive and disciplined Imperial attack, were pushed back to the River Rubern and at risk of breaking. However, at the decisive point in the battle, Prince Richard of Rubern led a sally out to attack the Imperial siegeworks under the command of General Darius Sabari. Believing that there was little risk of an attack, General Darius had not drawn up his ranks and manned his fortifications. The besiegers were quickly scattered and put to flight, forcing General Leonard to pull back his army to avoid it being hit from the rear and trapped on two sides. With the siege broken, morale shattered, and the numbers swinging in King Godric’s favor, the Imperial army made a third and final attempt to defeat the coalition army and rescue the Emperor and Empress on the 6th of Sigismund’s End, 1740, but, now outnumbered and in weak spirits, were quickly defeated and driven back to Helena. An artist’s rendition of the Three Skirmishes of Rubern, painted by the Londenlander artist Florentijn Schapink c. 1755 While the coalition forces had suffered some losses during the Three Skirmishes of Rubern, most notably Prince Richard of Rubern, who had been killed by an Imperial archer during the third skirmish, it was clear that the Imperials had suffered greater. King Godric’s plan had been executed perfectly: Rubern had been secured, the Empire had been cut in half, the Imperial army had been shattered, and the Emperor and Empress were in the custody of the AIS. King Godric proceeded to divide his army in two, with himself in command of the eastern half and the new Prince of Rubern, Marius I, in command of the western half. They spent much of the summer and fall of 1740 conquering the castles and fortifications of Haense and the Crownlands, respectively, before retiring to their winter quarters in Rubern to rest their soldiers and consolidate their gains. Even when the Emperor made his escape on the 29th of Godfrey’s Triumph, 1740, the morale of the AIS forces did not fall, for their successes over the course of the past few months greatly offset the loss of a prized captive. It was during the winter of 1740, when the war of swords had drawn into a lull, that the war of words flared its brightest. Missives, countermissives, public letters, theses, discourses, and more were written and published at an unprecedented rate. The Archives of Helena give evidence that for every ten households within the city containing at least one literate person, nine regularly read and followed the ‘war discourse’ that came with the winter of 1740. The center of this verbose action was the debate between King Godric and Emperor Peter III, though it must be noted that many other scholars, authors, lords, and ladies, participated in this war of words. On the Imperial side, Peter III wrote frequently of the Tapestry of Man, a term coined by his Archchancellor, Simon Basrid. It was a vision of a united man progressing beyond the feudal and ethnic divisions that defined their race for centuries. An approach towards greater cultural and political unity under a central government, reformed under liberal ideals that allowed for representation among the constituent participants of the Empire, would be the dream that Emperor Peter and his government sought to attain. King Godric sharply rejected this, instead tying his movement to the same ideals that the Empire stood against. However, Godric asserted that, unlike what the Emperor claimed, humanity had become deprived of its honor, its victory in conquest, and its heroes. The Empire celebrated the end of the ‘Age of Heroes’, championing instead the ‘Age of Man’, which would be defined not by individuals, but by movements of the many. King Godric desperately tried to keep the former from fading, and for it was given the moniker, either in jape or in glorification, The Last Hero. With the spring of 1741 came another year of campaigning. The eastern front of the war, pitting King Godric against King Andrik of Haense and King Adrian of Kaedrin, remained relatively quiet for the year. A few minor skirmishes were fought, and a few fortresses were taken, then retaken, but both sides generally avoided direct confrontation. Kings Andrik and Adrian, though possessing greater numbers, were generally reluctant to fight Godric in open battle, as he had gained a fearsome reputation after his successes the previous year. Godric, on the other hand, felt little need to move with great haste, and was content with ensuring his position was completely secured before moving on Reza. This security, naturally, would come via the western front, where Prince Marius of Rubern began his new campaign against the Crownlands with great earnest. After his failures in 1740, General Leopold de Ruyter was sacked and replaced by General Darius Sabari, who appears to have convincingly absolved himself of any fault during the Three Skirmishes of Rubern. General Darius believed that with the AIS army divided, he had a perfect opportunity to smash Prince Marius’s forces and drive them back to Rubern. While his approach was not nearly as aggressive as his predecessor’s had been, it still relied on a vigorous, mobile campaign. For the first few months of 1741, the two armies maneuvered around each other, fighting a few skirmishes in between quick sieges. Most of these engagements were draws, but the Imperials were able to replenish their manpower more quickly, while Prince Marius’s army grew thin from having to leave garrisons at the various villages and castles he had captured. Finally, on the 15th of Owyn’s Flame, 1741, General Darius arrayed his army outside of Helena and prepared to face the coalition forces. Unfortunately for the Imperials, while General Darius had adequately managed the season’s strategic campaign, he was a woeful tactician and field commander. At the Battle of Helena’s Fields, he arranged his army in a single vertical column facing the AIS forces, which negated his advantage in manpower. Furthermore, he took no care in organizing his army, and as the mass of levies, Imperial regulars, and mercenaries marched forth, they became confused by the many, often contradictory, orders from commanders they did not know. The battle took less than an hour, and the Imperials were soundly defeated, losing nearly a fifth of their army Prince Marius’s forces suffered minimal casualties. The western flank of the war had now been soundly secured by Prince Marius, with his conquests of the Crownlands leading up to the River Rodenburg, and the AIS advance towards Haense could now proceed uninterrupted. As the two sides once again retired to their winter quarters, plans were made by the coalition high command to march on Reza and put it under siege. As the spring of 1742 came around, King Godric prepared to implement the first phase of his plan. It called for the securing of Hangman’s Bridge, which was a vital crossing point on the River Rubern between Kaedrin and Haense. If he could secure it, he would be able to prevent Kaedreni reinforcements from assisting Haense in the upcoming siege. Godric split his army, sending most of it to begin the march towards Reza, while taking a small force of around three thousand men himself in order to secure the crossing at Hangman’s Bridge. Alerted of this movement, the King of Haense ordered a small detachment of five hundred cavalrymen to hold the bridge and sent a letter to the King of Kaedrin informing him of Godric’s plan. King Adrian moved quickly, assembling a force of over four thousand and marching towards Hangman’s Bridge at a breakneck pace. On the 11th of Sigismund’s End, 1742, King Godric and his force arrived. Taking only a moment to pause, they immediately charged at the Haeseni cavalry, scattering many and driving the rest across the bridge. However, just as the Haeseni contingent was nearing collapse, King Adrian and his army arrived. A lull in the fighting commenced as the two sides took the time to reorganize and arrange their lines. An hour later, the two forces clashed again, with King Godric aiming to hold the now-taken bridge and King Adrian aiming to retake it to maintain his kingdom’s link with Haense. The fighting devolved into a long, bloody slaughter, but after ten hours of fighting, the coalition ranks began to falter. Knowing that continued fighting could lead to the destruction of his force, King Godric sounded a retreat, and he and his men withdrew in an orderly fashion. The impact of this victory, though often overlooked by historians of the Rubern War, cannot be understated. Not only had the Empire secured its first victory against the seemingly invincible forces of the AIS, the vital strategic crossing at Hangman’s Bridge was now fully secured: it would remain in Imperial hands for the remainder of the war. Not all went well for the Empire during 1742, however. General Darius Sabari, wishing to avenge his previous loss to Prince Marius, implemented a plan devised by Doran Ruric, a distant cousin of King Godric and leader of a mercenary company formed by dissident Norlanders. The plan called for the establishment of a bridgehead across the River Roden, which would be used as a forward operating base in the liberation of the Eastern Crownlands. General Darius presented this plan to the Imperial high command, and when it was approved he and Doran Ruric began their preparations. In the summer of 1742, a large Imperial force under their command was ferried from Helena over to Sunholdt, the seat of John d’Arkent, who by now was First Minister of Curonia. The initial landing fared well, and as more Imperial troops were ferried over, it appeared that the campaign was off to a strong start. However, General Darius and Doran Ruric had walked into a trap. On the 28th of Horen’s Calling, 1742, at the ‘battle’ (if it can be called that) now dubbed ‘Doran Ruric’s Folly’, the army of Prince Marius set upon the overstretched, disorganized Imperial army, catching them completely by surprise. Doran Ruric attempted to organize a defense, but quickly fell to the surge of Ruberni knights. Upon seeing the oncoming coalition army, General Darius boarded the fastest ship and fled, leaving his army behind. Broken, exhausted, and leaderless, the Imperial army laid down their arms and surrendered. Back in Helena, General Darius was officially stripped of his rank and discharged for his cowardice. He was called to replace him by Alren DeNurem, a young, but bright Imperial general who had been one of the few to oppose Doran Ruric’s reconquest plans. Although hardly a man- only around twenty years of age- he was regarded as disciplined, intimidating, and wise beyond his years. Although his tactical skills could not match those of the famed commanders of the AIS, his understanding of logistics and overall strategy would prove to be second to none. Given the failures of the various quick offensives against the AIS, General DeNurem opted for a far more cautious, methodical strategy. He spent the winter reforming the military, establishing the new Imperial State Army (ISA) in late 1742, which would serve as the model army for the Empire until its disbandment by Emperor Philip III in 1867. He also planned a campaign not around retaking Rubern itself, but starving it and the other AIS member states out by cutting their supply lines while using ISA detachments to support the primary Imperial vassals. At that time, Rubern and Kaedrin were major exporters of wheat, serving as the "breadbasket" for most of Arcas. With a supply line secured to and from Rubern, the AIS would be able to continue their offensives without concern, and could reinforce and resupply their armies without great difficulty. However, if Rubern were to be surrounded once again, then the AIS states would be cut off from their vital grain shipments. The full implementation of this plan began during the spring of 1743. By now, Prince Marius and his army had rejoined King Godric, and the two prepared for their final push towards Reza. King Andrik had spent the winter building up his defenses and preparing for the coming siege, and he sent frantic letters to Helena, Curonia, and Kaedrin, calling on them all to defend Haense, as he knew that his forces alone could not hold out against the coalition. The Emperor announced that all war efforts would now be directed towards the defense of Reza, and he and General DeNurem departed Helena at the head of their new Imperial State Army. Heading north, bypassing both Rubern and the occupied Eastern Crownlands, the ISA soon met with the Curonian army led by King Wilhelm II. They then moved south, finally reaching Reza, along with the Kaedreni army led by King Adrian, just before the AIS forces arrived. The two armies arrayed themselves outside of Reza on the dawn of the 20th of Sigismund’s End, 1743. The Imperials fielded one of the greatest hosts seen upon Arcas, numbering nearly thirty thousand strong in total, with the Emperor and his vassal kings at the head. The AIS forces, though outnumbered, as was usual, did not fall far behind, and King Godric rode before an army of twenty six thousand. For hours, the soldiers of both sides stood silently as neither dared to make a move. It was not until noon that King Godric ordered his skirmishers forward to harass the Imperial lines, but he still refrained from committing his army to a full assault. By dusk, he had withdrawn his forces entirely, and by the next day, the many banners of the AIS army could be seen returning to Rubern. No battle had been fought, no siege had commenced, but as the day came to an end, it was the Imperials that stood upon the fields of Reza, celebrating. King Godric’s decision to retreat from Reza is perhaps the most controversial debate surrounding the Rubern War. While each scholar has his own opinion of what truly transpired in the war councils of the AIS, these authors have developed a theory, free of crackpot notions and conspiracies, that may explain this puzzling action. While King Godric, and the whole of the AIS, had enjoyed a number of decisive victories over larger forces for the past three years, the sheer size of the armies that faced each other at Reza all but ensured the coming battle would be a bloody one. While his forces would likely emerge victorious, their losses would be far more difficult to replenish than it would be for the Imperials. Undertaking a siege against Reza would also take a great deal of time and effort, which would stretch well into the winter. King Godric had no desire to subject his forces to the brutality of the northern winters deep into enemy territory without adequate quarters and provisions. By the time the next spring came, the Imperial army he was bound to face would be far more replenished and rested than his. Thus, a retreat was called for. Following a logic not dissimilar to General DeNurem’s, King Godric decided instead to continue taking the smaller forts and towns across the Empire. Along with Godric’s retreat from Haense came the disbursement of the assembled forces of the Empire, who now returned home to protect their lands against a feared theoretical incursion from the AIS army. Little fighting continued for the rest of 1743, though Prince Richard conquered a few small towns near Kaedrin, and King Godric took a castle of mild importance within Haense. The only other event of note that year was Operation Lady in the Hightower, undertaken on the night of the 4th of Godfrey’s Triumph. A few Imperial special forces, under the command of the robust Colonel Peter Baldwin d’Arkent, the youngest son of John d’Arkent, infiltrated Rubern and were able to sneak into the cells undetected. They quickly found the Empress Lorena, who had been a captive of the Ruberni since 1740, and rescued her from her chains. They returned her to the capital, where they were met with great acclaim. That winter, a personal memoir by the Empress recounting her time in captivity became the most widely-circulated work of literature in both Imperial and AIS territories. It was also during the winter of 1743 that a number of ambitious, wide-reaching reforms began to take place within the Empire. Simon Basrid, who, according to The Truth of the Devil from the Sands: The Life of the Wretched Villain Simon Basrid by Stepan de Rosieres, believing that now was the perfect time to advance his cause of the wretched sin known as democracy, successfully lobbied for the Emperor to implement a number of liberal reforms. The Emperor outlawed all feudal levies within the Imperial Crownlands, reorganized the city government of Helena, and instituted the Imperial Senate- a body that would be comprised of elected senators, chosen from various electoral districts across the Empire, to formulate, debate, and vote on legislation. This legislation would be submitted to the Emperor, who would have a final veto. Judicial reforms were also implemented, and several layers of national courts were created to hear cases and make legal rulings throughout the Empire. At the top sat the Supreme Court, which was to be the foremost legal body throughout the Empire, with powers of judicial review that were superseded only by the Crown’s own authority. These reforms were initially well received, with an Empire-wide turnout of well over 80% in the inaugural elections for the Imperial Senate. Only the petty nobles of the Western Crownlands protested, though with their lands occupied and their diminished levies outlawed, few paid heed to them. The inaugural session of the Imperial Senate on the 1st of Tobias’s Bounty, 1743; this painting officially commissioned by the Imperial Senate The entire world expected the war’s resumption in the spring of 1744 to bring with it the many battles, lightning-movements, and great campaigns that had marked the previous four years. However, much to the surprise of everyone, it would be twelve years until the next significant battle of the war, which would also be the final one. General DeNurem and the Imperial high command had agreed on a policy of avoiding battle, especially with Prince Marius and King Godric. Instead, they would focus their attention on besieging occupied forts and towns, ambushing grain shipments from Rubern, and directly engaging only small, heavily-outnumbered AIS contingents. The rest of the war was defined by this strategy. When King Godric would storm a Haeseni castle, the next day he would receive word that the army of King Andrik IV, who had succeeded to the Haseni throne after his father’s death during a boar hunt in 1746, had retaken another. When Prince Marius’s army tried to march across the River Roden to attack the ISA camped across, General DeNurem would fall behind the walls of Helena and watch as the frustrated Ruberni Prince withdrew to the Eastern Crownlands. When a caravan from Rubern was seen traveling to one of the member states of the AIS, Kaedreni raiding parties would ambush and destroy them. By 1750, food shortages began to wreak havoc both within the army of the AIS and also back in the member states. While King Adrian of Kaedrin, veteran of countless conflicts since the War of the Two Emperors, perished that year of an illness, his government continued the wartime policies he laid out and installed his son, Robert Castor, as Governor-General to rule in the absence of a king. Such cohesion and unity could not be found in the AIS states.Grain riots broke out in the lesser tribes of Zakopane, Aurvergne, and Al-Faiz, forcing them to recall soldiers from the coalition army to quell them. On one occasion, a detachment from the Irrinorian tribes sent home to respond to civil unrest was set upon by a company of Imperial-aligned mercenaries, slaughtering them to a man. In Haelun’or, the Sohaer, Diamethor Visaj, was overthrown in a coup. The new government immediately made peace with the Empire and withdrew from the war. As the days drew on, Godric’s ranks whittled while the Imperials' only swelled. Prince Marius was forced to recall several garrisons in the Eastern Crownlands to replenish severely depleted ranks elsewhere. Mere days later, ISA soldiers could be seen occupying the abandoned forts, castles, and towns. A desperate attempt was made by Prince Marius to apply some pressure on Helena, and he led a raiding party near the capital in 1753. He met an army under the command of Colonel Peter d’Arkent outside the castle of Harlingen on the 7th of Harren’s Folly, 1753, where he proceeded to rout the Imperials. However, the men under d’Arkent, despite taking heavy losses, had performed far better than in previous years, and had inflicted moderate casualties upon Prince Marius’s own forces. The infuriated Prince was forced to withdraw again, as he no longer had the numbers required to carry out any significant operations. It would be the last time the AIS crossed the River Roden in an attempt to threaten Helena directly. King Godric fared slightly better in the east, though desertion, starvation, and frequent harassment decimated his ranks as well. King Andrik IV, whom we regretfully could not include more of in this work, given how much of his efforts were focused on internal reforms within Haense, and would thus distract from our work, was killed while saving his wife from assailants in 1753. The throne would pass to his five year old son, Sigismund II. A year later, King Godric was able to destroy a combined Haeseni-Kaedreni-Curonian army at the Battle of Krasna on the 27th of the Sun’s Smile, 1754, but he was just as stunned as his Ruberni counterpart when he found that his own army had suffered significant casualties. With his position untenable, and morale plummeting, King Godric abandoned all but a few of the fortifications and towns he had captured in Haense, pulling most of his army back to Rubern. Prince Marius followed in 1755, completely withdrawing from the Eastern Crownlands to defend his own lands in Rubern. The ISA marched through the Crownlands in a triumphal procession. After nearly twelve years of occupation, the heartlands of the Empire had been retaken. With the dwindling of the AIS army, and the swelling of the combined Imperial forces, Emperor Peter finally approved plans for an offensive into Rubern. It was to take place the next year, in 1756, with the aim of bringing a complete end to the war. It is in the winter of 1755 that we see the exit of King Godric Edvardsson, The Last Hero, from the story of history. Believing that he had lost any ability to campaign against the Empire, and receiving word that a distant cousin named Caedric Edvardsson, who was falsely claiming to be Godric’s son, had ousted the government and crowned himself King of Norland. Godric was in the middle of devising a plan to march the remains of his forces back to Morsgrad to retake his throne when, on the 7th of Tobias’s Bounty, 1755, he received a minor wound during a skirmish with ISA forces outside of Rubern. Although it was little more than a cut, the wound quickly began to fester, and with it came rot, which soon spread. Despite trying every medicine, herb, and treatment known to man, the doctors of Rubern were unable to cure the king. On the 23rd of Tobias’s Bounty, after uttering a final few words to a priest of the Red Faith who had come to perform the last rites, King Godric succumbed to his illness, perishing at the age of thirty-seven. His death signaled the true end of the war. As news of King Godric’s passing spread, the AIS ranks fell into a deep mourning, grieving the loss of the commander they believed to be invincible. Prince Marius, now in full command, attempted to rally the coalition forces to make a stand against the Empire, but by now the inevitable end could be seen by all. In early 1756, the Horde of Krugmar made peace with the Empire and withdrew from the war. The tribes of Aurvergne, Zakopane, and Irrinor soon followed. Norland, under King Caedric, while still in formal peace negotiations with Emperor Peter III, agreed to a ceasefire and withdrew their soldiers from Rubern. An ISA detachment was sent into the rebellious Archduchy of Suffonia, where they imprisoned the Archduke, stripped him of his lands and titles, and set his palace ablaze. The Suffonian population was then forcibly deported into the Imperial Crownlands. By the time of the final Imperial offensive into Rubern, only the Ruberni themselves, the tribes of Al-Faiz, and the tribes of Renelia remained. The final battle came on the 15th of Owyn’s Flame, 1756. A depleted, exhausted army under Prince Marius faced a sizable ISA brigade commanded by Colonel Peter d’Arkent. The two lines met outside the gates of the city, and for an hour the fight seemed even, but soon the Imperials gained the upper hand and began to push the Ruberni forces back to their walls. Prince Marius attempted to conduct an orderly retreat, but his ranks devolved into a general panic and soon began to flee into the city. The Imperials surged into Rubern, quickly rounding up prisoners, cutting down those who resisted, and securing the city. Prince Marius, knowing the end had come, surrendered himself and agreed to a ceasefire, which Al-Faiz and Renelia followed. Although formal peace negotiations would continue for the next four years, officially marking the end of the Rubern War as 1760, no fighting occurred after 1756. After sixteen long, arduous years of war, the Empire was now victorious. The AIS had been shattered, its member states having either fallen into anarchy or made peace with the Empire, and the rebellious territories of Rubern and Suffonia had been reconquered. A week of celebrations broke out across every hamlet, town, castle, and city of the Empire, and soon the various ISA and vassal forces, who had been tirelessly on campaign for years, were ordered to demobilize. The Rubern War stands as the longest war in the history of the Holy Orenian Empire, surpassing even the Eighteen Years’ War and the Sinners’ War. It was during this difficult period that a new Orenian identity began to form. Where strength of arms and great vassal armies had once ruled the day, the Novellens were forced to adapt to the new style of warfare the Rubern War brought. No longer could numerical superiority decide the day in great, decisive battles, as had been assumed for the first four years of the war. Instead, a slow, grinding style of war, marked by skirmishes, raids, and sieges, became the rule rather than the exception. Unafraid of dedicating his resources towards internal reform, thereby solidifying the state against the prolonged offensives of the AIS, Peter III not only strengthened the Empire throughout the course of the war, but did so at his enemy’s expense. This would bear fruit after the war’s end, as the Empire was healthier than ever, prepared to continue through with the reforms that had begun in 1743, and was the undisputed power on the continent. While his later actions, especially surrounding Haense and Sutica, can be criticized, Peter III’s handling of the Rubern War and its aftermath are nothing short of remarkable. As dawn sets in the year of 1760, however, a man of nine-feet stands proudly overlooking a pagan city. "God has gifted me the land on which I step. And with these steps, I shall claim the City-State. And cleanse them from filth. But Lord, I ask you? Why must I fight for the Emperor of Man who I love?" the King and humble Messiah sadly pondered. A cruel Basridi man had the answer for the question. And his deeds would lead to the bloodiest war between Canonists the world has yet to see. O Ágioi Kristoff, Jude kai Pius. Dóste mas gnósi ópos sas ékane o Theós. Poté min afísoume na doúme to skotádi, allá as doúme móno to fos tis sofías kai tis alítheias. O Theós na se evlogeí. The resulting reign of Emperor Peter III, and the Sutican War, shall be covered in our next volume of The Decline and Fall of the Holy Orenian Empire.
  4. can hugh get unbanned plz

  5. The flow of time is always cruel.

    1. M1919

      M1919

      But for you, the flow of my heart will always be true.

  6. An Oyashiman woman weeped over the loss of her favorite Baron that she fangirled over.... Her, along with the twenty thousand other women in the Barony of Acre and the Kingdom of Oren beyond. How could life be so cruel that they could take such a handsome, strong, and brave man like Hannes de Vilan, Baron of Acre, and Lord Commander of the Petran Legion.
  7. THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE HOLY ORENIAN EMPIRE: Volume III; The Time of Troubles Written by Justinian Nafis, heir to the County of Susa and Adolphus Gloriana, Earl of Suffolk, Prince of Sutica The Time of Troubles “These are dark times we live in, my boy. I see more heads flying than I do crows in the sky; I must tread lightly so I do not become food for the latter.” - King Andrik III of Haense to his Lord Palatine, Konrad Stafyr The years 1725-1737, between the ascension of Alexander II and the beginning of the reign of Emperor Peter III, mark the period historians call ‘The Time of Troubles’. This period is defined by the failure of the new Imperial government to effectively deal with the issues that arose during the latter years of the Pertinaxi Dynasty. A string of weak, ineffectual ministers, paired with a timid, frequently-absent Emperor, found themselves unable to contain the deteriorating political situation. While Adrian de Sarkozy brought the Empire a strong leader during his time as Lord Protector, he was far more of a warrior than a statesman, and the intrigue from within the Imperial Court tied his hands as he tried to hold the Empire together through sheer willpower. Most scholars, both contemporary and later, describe the period as a "dark age": a time of uncertainty, intrigue, and violence, but, much like with the downfall of the Pertinaxi Dynasty, the chaos brought opportunity. New men and women rose to the forefront, and the organization of government and society that had existed since the dawn of feudalism during the birth of the Empire began to be questioned and challenged. It was not until the ascension of Peter III in 1737 that a regular dynasty was returned to the Imperial throne and stability restored to the Empire; that dynasty would be the Novellens. Emperor Alexander II had little time to enjoy his ascension to the throne, as a myriad of problems faced his nascent Empire. While Adrian de Sarkoz, now the Duke of Adria, had signed an alliance with the Urguani Horde to back his bid for the Empire, the treaty did not extend to Alexander II, and a formal peace would have to be made. The army, which had been thoroughly ravaged since the War of the Two Emperors, was in dire need of reconstruction. The Imperial bureaucracy and administration similarly faced a number of vacancies, though these would soon be filled by Simon Basrid and his allies. Finally, the myriad of imperial vassals—Haense, Curon, Adria, and Cathalon all wielded significant power in their own right. Combined, they could easily overmatch the Crownlands. Although Emperor Alexander was technically of age, being fourteen at the time of his ascension, he was bright enough to realize that his youth and inexperience would not do him well should he try to govern the Empire alone. To this end, he created a council formed from the most prominent men of the realm, many of them former supporters of Joseph Marna. High Pontiff Daniel VI and Simon Basrid were tasked with reorganizing the Imperial administration and negotiating a peace treaty with Urguan. The Duke of Adria was called to reform the shattered Imperial Army. Laertes de Falstaff, younger brother of the late Conrad de Falstaff, was chosen to revive the Nauzica Brigade, the elite guard force of the Johannian Emperors, as well as the Imperial intelligence network. Finally, John d’Arkent, the bastard son of Joseph Marna, was named Archchancellor of the Empire and given the responsibility of mediating disputes between or from the various vassals. A quick glance into the characters making up the Imperial inner circle proves useful in examining the actions of the Empire not only during the reign of Alexander II, but even into the modern age. While clerics, Daniel VI and Simon Basrid were liberals, and saw in the collapse of the Pertinaxi regime an opportunity to bring substantial change to Oren, namely by upending the old feudal system that had defined humanity for much of its history since its introduction by Emperor Godfrey. They also believed that absolute, undelegated power held in the hands of a sole monarch led to tyranny, and cited the actions of Emperor Anthony as the dangers of this. They believed that dividing the roles of the government and limiting the direct duties of the Emperor would drastically reduce his ability to act in a tyrannical manner. Taking inspiration from a series of reforms that had first taken place within the Kingdom of Haense, which focused on stripping the nobility of their privileges, namely the right to levy soldiers, to centralize the authority of the Crown, the High Pontiff and his Basrid ally made sure to only support policies and actions that would centralize the authority of the Emperor and his government. One instance of this came in their opposition to Emperor Alexander's settling of new vassals, among them Leufroy d’Amaury, who shall be discussed in greater detail later. They believed that the distribution of Crown lands would lead to a reduction in Imperial tax revenue and manpower, and opposed any measure that would allow it to be given to feudal entities. Eventually, this view of government won out, and became the guiding philosophy of most of the Novellen Emperors. On the opposite end of the liberal clergymen was Charles Alstion, who, while not having an official position within the Imperial government, was still regularly consulted for his advice. Despite being a social outcast at the Imperial court due to his support for the Pertinaxi Empire during the War of the Two Emperors, the Prince of Alstion was unafraid of expressing his sympathies for the Pertinaxi Empire.Contrary to the popular description of the Pertinaxi dynasty as being marked by violence and tyranny, Charles Alstion asserted that they represented strength, and would often point out that the Legions only rarely met defeat, and never twice in a row. The Pertinaxi, though quite lacking in administration, had been able to keep their vassals in line and their armies supreme. These arguments were sharply rejected by most of the Imperial court, though, and soon he was effectively banished at the insistence of Simon Basrid and his allies and sent to live on his country estate. The Duke of Adria was something of a hybrid of the respective philosophies espoused by Alstion and the liberal clergy. However, he was far from an ideologue and primarily focused on the affairs of his holdings. He believed in the necessity of a strong central military, able to cow dissenting vassals into submission. To Adrian de Sarkozy, vassals were useful tools to conduct the functions of state and further the imperial agenda, but they were generally unreliable and prone to acts of defiance, which required constant vigilance to correct. While a mildly popular theory during his age, it was seen as an ineffectual middle path by both the vassals of the Empire and the central Imperial government, and would not emerge as a dominant political view until the Aster Revolution conducted by Emperor Philip III and continued by his son, King Frederick I. Laertes de Falstaff and John d’Arkent, though very influential in court and in the private audience of the Emperor, did not align themselves with any of the growing political factions. De Falstaff, who had become addicted to hedonism, primarily used his position to satisfy his vices, though his service and loyalty to the Emperor never wavered. A rather apolitical man, most of his advice was built upon pragmatism. However, d'Arkent was nothing short of an opportunist. Willing to accept bribes, forge documents, embezzle funds, and grant himself hefty "rewards for his leal service," the future Duke of Sunholdt (a title he gave to himself) frequently gave advice that was aimed at his own benefit, not the benefit of the Empire as a whole. A rendition of the High Pontiff, St. Daniel VI by Justinian Basrid, Heir to Susa (Author’s Note: To Lady Sophia, the Countess of Susa, Your son has made a magnificent drawing. He is truly an artistic talent with a great attention to detail. Truly one of my finest pupils. - Adolphus Gloriana, Earl of Suffolk) Another important facet of Imperial politics during this era was the Canonist Church, which was experiencing a revival under Daniel VI after the horrors of the War of the Two Emperors. While these authors are not implying that the Canonist Church is inherently a vassal or institution of a singular nation (though they have been influenced by such), we wanted to speak about the current happenings in the Canonist Church at the time. The Canonist Church, prior to the modern age, was a semi-reformed church made after an attempt by Daniel VI’s namesake, High Pontiff St. Daniel I, to collectize all the different sects and denominations into a unified church. Despite the fact that the attempt failed in outlying places like the Turkin lands, the Kingdom of Gaekrin, the Shogunate of Oyashima, and among other regions, it was a huge success for the descendants of the first citizens of the Holy Orenian Empire. According to the theologian and venerated Philip Pius Coppinger, Daniel VI received a vision from St. Daniel to unify the Canonist Church further to prevent fracturing over secular and theological issues. With this vision, Daniel began working on his unification. The first unification work came regarding an official catechism for the Canonist Church. The Canonist Church never had solid progress in educating converts or deciding the way for priests to become priests. With the help of Cardinal Fabian the Lesser, Daniel VI found a way to go through all theology in layman's terms while also expanding the minds of potential clergy. Further, the official process of acolytes creating theses to be ordained was created here. The rich amount of theology the Canonist Church has today was created through this education of priests and pushing them to create major theological works. The second unification work came regarding the compiling of all the Canonist Church’s revered figures. Venerated, blessed, and saints—all who were revered and adored by the Canonist Church were immortalized on this list until the end of time.Daniel VI and his advisors worked tirelessly to include perfect and complete details about each of the blessed's and saints' lives. While the blessed lacked information, the saints, as Philip Pius Coppinger says, "is a stunning display both of literature and of God’s mercy on Terra. The Lord truly has mercy on us." Even today, this synaxarion is read to children at a very young age. Two of the saints we dedicate this book to are contained within this synaxarion, Sts. Kristoff and Jude. When you have the time to read it, we strongly urge you to. There will be a magnum opus that revolutionizes the Canonist Church in ten years from now, but these authors will save that for when it comes. For now, during all the secular actions taking place, Daniel VI is hard at work furthering the Canonist Church for the Lord. Not long after Alexander II’s ascension, challenges to Imperial authority arose both from within and without the Emperor’s inner circle, no doubt driven by the conflicting ideologies that had grasped men and women around the Empire. The Duke of Adria secured one of his supporters, the competent Sir Hans de Ruyter, a spot as one of the commanders of the Nauzica Brigade. He then convinced Daniel VI to appoint Sir Hans’s son, Ludolf de Ruyter, as Bishop of Helena and Cardinal Pruvia. At the crossroads between the Crownlands, Haense, and Cathalon, where the former lands of Leuven lay, Richard Alimar, a member of a scion of the Royal Barbanov Dynasty of Haense, claimed the lands as his own, establishing the Principality of Rubern. With the formidable Black Reiter Company at his back, the newly-made Prince Richard I agreed to swear fealty to Emperor Alexander in exchange for Rubern being given extensive autonomy. A year later, in 1726, Duke Helton of Cathalon was elected to the throne of Kaedrin by the notables of Ves, effectively ending the Vesian Republic for good and transforming the Duchy of Cathalon into the Kingdom of Kaedrin. Donning the regnal name Adrian I, the new king grew emboldened, and soon ordered Richard de Reden to march the Kaedreni Army into the Barony of Guise, which was a contested tract of land between Kaedrin and Haense. Skirmishes immediately broke out between the forces of Kaedrin and Haense, though they did not escalate beyond that. Not wishing to see civil war break out, Emperor Alexander ordered the Kaedreni forces to evacuate Guise in exchange for confirming King Adrian’s ascension to the throne of Kaedrin. Then, a small Imperial garrison was ordered into Guise to prevent it from being taken by either Haense or Kaedrin. In 1727, some progress was being made by the Imperial government. Peace had been made with Urguan, in which only some minor border territories and a few titular titles were ceded; the Imperial army was recovering well; the Imperial bureaucracy had been entirely overhauled and modernized; and new vassals were being settled within the Crownlands. Foremost among these was Leufroy d’Amaury, a descendent of the famed Dukes of Lorraine. Having served in the army of Joseph Marna as a minor bannerman, d’Amaury had ingratiated himself with many of the senior officers, who saw within him a promising young man. However, by the war’s end, he was quickly rehabilitated into the Pertinaxi Empire by the Cascadian Regency, which was in dire need of competent officers. Sent to the front to command a small fort during the short war with Urguan, d’Amaury was one of the few commanders who performed well, driving back a handful of dwarven raiding parties and generally keeping his part of the border from meeting the same fate as the other overrun defenses. By 1726, his renown increased after he defeated a force of Reivers, who had begun to raid across the Empire after having not received compensation for their service in Joseph Marna’s army. He then joined Richard de Reden’s force in his series of skirmishes against Haense, hoping to be given Guise as a reward, but the conflict was quickly ended after Emperor Alexander’s intervention. However, by 1727, the dashing young d’Amaury had become something of a household name, and his following soon rivaled those of the other major vassals of the realm. Hoping to capitalize off of this, Archchancellor John d’Arkent persuaded his liege to grant the up and coming Lorrainian his old familial title and settle him within the Crownlands. The Emperor agreed, and d’Amaury was given the Duchy of Lorraine along with a sizable plot of land situated right next to the Duchy of Adria. This would prove to be a dire mistake. While any amateur student of history would claim that the historical rivalry between the houses of d’Amaury and Sarkozic, dating back to the Dukes’ War of 1518-1521, would spell doom for any efforts to force the two into cooperation, the truth is that Adrian de Sarkozy and Leufroy d’Amaury initially regarded each other as strong friends and allies. Having first met during the War of the Two Emperors, the two quickly formed a mutual respect for each other’s prowess on the battlefield. During Sarkozy’s bid for the Imperial throne in 1725, he had even asked d’Amaury to join his march on Helena, but the latter was too far away to reach him in time. When d’Amaury was granted his lands in 1727, the Duke of Adria celebrated his battle-brother’s ascension into the ranks of the nobility with a grand feast, at which he betrothed a cousin of his, Helaine, to the Duke of Lorraine. An alliance was formed between the two, and joint-training between their respective levies was held nearly every other week. Whatever reservations the two may have had due to some blood rivalry that was over two centuries old, it was far from evident at the beginning. However, this would soon change. Many rumors persist as to why the healthy friendship between the Duke of Adria and the Duke of Lorraine began to deteriorate around 1728, eventually leading to the Lorrainian Revolt in 1729. The historian Brom Herston, in his work Alexander II, writes: "The Duke of Adria had, by that time, entered into an illicit affair with his cousin, Helaine, the woman he had betrothed to the Duke of Lorraine a year earlier. Upon hearing word of one of their trysts, the furious Duke of Lorraine challenged Sarkozy to a duel. Receiving only silence, raids soon followed." Jychel Druel, a half-elven ambassador from the Free City of Talon’s Port, claims that the enmity did not spring from any action taken by either Duke, but from rivalries between their respective soldiers, which forced the two men to back their own. Finally, Stepan de Rosieres, author of The Truth of the Devil from the Sands: The Life of the Wretched Villain Simon Basrid, alleges that Simon Basird incited the feud between the two men in order to convince the Emperor to abandon the feudal system and install democracy. Whatever the case may be, the first minor skirmishes between Adria and Lorraine commenced during the summer of 1728. These small fights persisted throughout the summer and produced few casualties, but each encounter gave ample room for the Duke of Adria and Lorraine, respectively, to petition the Emperor in the hopes that he would disavow the other. However, John d’Arkent advised Emperor Alexander to allow the two vassals to fight, and so the young Emperor refused to heed the pleas of either man. The small feud could not be kept as such for long, though, and on the 16th of Owyn’s Flame, 1728, a full-scale battle erupted between the two. Four thousand Lorrainians, led by Sir Lewis Guiscard, stormed into Adria to face a force of three thousand, led by Sir Leonard de Ruyter. With d’Amaury visiting Kaedrin in hopes of securing an alliance with King Adrian I, and Sarkozy overseeing repairs of the defenses along the Urguani border, there was no one with senior authority present to put a stop to the fighting. With the outnumbered Adrians pushed back into the town’s center, Peter de Sarkozy, brother of the Duke of Adria, rode to the capital and asked for Sir Hans de Ruyter, now the de facto commander of the Nauzican Brigade, to ride to the aid of his kinsmen and benefactor. Although the Nauzica were sworn to neutrality, Sir Hans had corrupted the elite guard, filling its ranks with men loyal to him and wielding it to support the interests of the Duke of Adria. Without hesitation, Sir Hans rode with five hundred Nauzica cavalry to aid Adria. They arrived just as the Lorrainians had nearly pushed into the main keep, and were able to drive back Sir Lewis and his men. The battle, though indecisive, had left two hundred men dead, broken the sworn neutrality of the Nauzica, and now caused a storm at the Imperial court. Was civil war about to erupt once more in the realm? When the prospect of civil war loomed overhead, Charles Alstion focused his attention on something entirely else. According to Queen Johanna of Sutica in her novel, Corvinus, Charles Alstion was reported to loiter outside a wine cellar near the City-State of Sutica. While no one knows why, Charles observed a wine barrel for days on end without so much as a nibble of food. Charles would not even sleep unless he touched the barrel twenty times per day. On one faithful day, Charles was quoted as whispering to the barrel, "Within this barrel, shall the dreams of the pretenders be overthrown." A recovered bust of King Corwin I of Sutica, date unknown When the next day dawned, Charles Alstion was nowhere to be seen again. But a man, Queen Johanna reports, came out. A brute of nine feet, with shoulders strong enough to hold ten war elephants, and a sunlight radiance upon him. Corwin von Alstreim emerged in glory with aengulic beings flying overhead, proclaiming the coming of this messianic hero being ushered into existence. A prophecy, while lost for a few years but recorded by Queen Johanna of Sutica, goes as follows, "On this day, a body was born. But anger and vitriol were lost in its creation. The Holy Orenian Empire shall fall. But the Lord has destined me to save it, and to save this atheistic state from the destruction that the Lord has planned for it should they not repent. A successor after my namesake shall emerge and save the true heir of the Holy Orenian Empire, and in doing so, save the Orenian people from their own destruction." After the prophecy was uttered, the man vanished in a mist, with aengulic beings close behind. Adrian de Sarkozy and Leufroy d’Amaury did not idle in the aftermath of the Battle of Adria. Fearing potential arrest if they ventured to the capital, both men avoided both Helena and their own holdings until a final decision was made. The Duke of Lorraine spent most of his time in Kaedrin, pledging his support to King Adrian in his bid to gain control of the Barony of Guise in exchange for the latter’s help against the Duke of Adria. The Duke of Adria, in talks with the Prince of Rubern and the King of Haense, joined them in a Crowsmoot held in Rubern on the 10th of Tobias’s Bounty, 1728. The Crowsmoot was an ancient conclave held between descendents of the Carrion Dynasty, and was generally called in times where the branches of the Crow needed to settle differences, unite, or generally discuss future cooperation. While the exact proceedings of this Crowsmoot are well-guarded to history, as only those with Carrion blood were allowed to attend, the result is well-known to history. An alliance was formed between Rubern, Haense, and Adria. The Duke of Adria and Prince Richard of Rubern agreed to swap their betrothals, with Princess Ester of Curonia and Princess Maria of Haense, respectively, and cooperate to keep the roads free of banditry. With this alliance formed, the three pledged to put an end to the Duke of Lorraine and then move to secure the Barony of Guise for Haense. Over in the capital, the Duke of Adria’s supporters in court moved to prevent any potential backlash. Ludolf Cardinal Pruvia, the Bishop of Helena, organized a private meeting between himself, the Emperor, the Archchancellor, and an envoy sent by Lorraine. While Emperor Alexander desired to relocate Adria and forbade the two from raising arms against each other, the Cardinal Pruvia pointed out, controversially, that it was Lorraine that had struck the first blow, and asserted, correctly, that it was Lorraine that had escalated the feud, thus making the Nauzican involvement in the feud entirely legal, as it was done to keep order. In a diary entry from the young Cardinal Pruvia, it is alleged that he paid John d’Arkent a bribe to support him, though this reading is subject to some scrutiny. Other scholars allege that the Archchancellor simply believed that Lorraine was in a worse position and coveted its lands for himself. Regardless, with d’Arkent’s support, Cardinal Pruvia was able to convince the Emperor that Duke Leufroy of Lorraine was nothing but an upstart, and that the most prudent action was to declare him in rebellion and formally strip him of his lands and titles. The Emperor agreed, and on the 3rd of Sun’s Smile, 1729, the Duchy of Lorraine was declared to be in revolt, and Duke Leufroy d’Amaury was stripped of all lands and titles and called to present himself before the Emperor. Knowing that his surrender would mean death, Leufroy d’Amaury quickly fled his lands and moved with his army towards Guise, as taking it would allow him to be reinforced by the Kaedreni forces. The Imperial army, led by General Otto Barbanov, arrived in Lorraine merely a day after, meeting little resistance as they subdued the rebellious duchy. A few weeks later, d’Amaury and his men stormed Guise, quickly taking it and driving out the small Imperial garrison. d’Amaury sent word to King Adrian of Kaedrin, notifying him that he had taken Guise and requiring Kaedreni reinforcements to meet the combined army sent to meet him. Unfortunately for Duke Leufroy, the King of Kaderin has already entered into secret negotiations with the Adrian-Haeseni-Ruberni alliance. Not wishing to incite the wrath of his liege by aiding an official rebel but also in possession of a formidable army, King Adrian bluffed, proposing to the ‘Crow Alliance’ that, in exchange for being given Guise, he would stay neutral in the conflict. Although he desired Guise for himself, the King of Haense relented, not wishing to prolong the war and force the Empire into civil war once again. A pause in the fighting took place in the winter of 1729 as the Imperial high command planned the coming offensive against Guise, now fully held by the Duke of Lorraine and his army. It was during this lull that the famous wedding between Adrian de Sarkozy and Princess Maria of Haense took place. Although he had obtained her formal betrothal during the Crowsmoot of 1728, the Duke of Adria knew that Princess Maria still had lingering feelings for Prince Richard, and it was rumored that she was considering fleeing her arranged marriage to be at his side. Knowing his marriage to a daughter of Haense was necessary for the newfound alliance, Duke Adrian moved swiftly to convince her to accept her marriage to him. While some believe this was done out of romantic inclinations, the diaries of Ludolf Cardinal Pruvia dispel this notion: it was a wholly strategic action. Although he was now formally allied with Rubern, the Duke of Adria distrusted Prince Richard, believing him to be little better than a mercenary. Concerned that the mutual affections between Maria and Richard could evolve into plotting against him, Duke Adrian enlisted the aid of Princess Sofia of Haense, Maria’s younger sister. Princess Sophia, herself a formidable woman, had numerous business interests in the arms trade, which furnished her lavish lifestyle. Duke Adrian promised Sophia that, if she aided him in convincing her sister to marry him, he would ensure that her arms companies would be given an exclusive contract with the Imperial army, which he still had official command over as Lord Marshal. Sophia agreed, and arranged a meeting between herself, Maria, and Adrian a mere week before the wedding was set to commence. Once again, those romantics who would believe that the words of Adrian de Sarkozy were filled with professions of undying love and adoration are simply crafting fiction. Although little is known of the specifics of the meeting, it is clear, from correspondence between Princess Sophia and her husband, Prince Kazimar of Muldav, that the Duke of Adria’s approach was a logical one. At his side, Princess Maria would be close to the Imperial court while also being the lady of one of the stronger Imperial vassals. An ambitious woman herself, Princess Maria saw clearly the benefits of becoming the Duchess of Adria, and thus accepted. The wedding, which was held on the 8th of Sigismund’s End, 1729, was attended by over twelve thousand spectators, including nearly all of the lords and ladies of the Empire, including Emperor Alexander himself, who presented the couple with a dozen hand-picked steeds from his personal stables. The festivities continued for the next week, involving a spectacle of feasts, games, and parades. However, with the winter soon to end, it came time for the final offensive against Leufroy d’Amaury to commence. By the spring of 1730, the Imperial high command was fully prepared to liberate the Barony of Guise. The Imperial army, Haense, Adria, and Rubern agreed to supply one thousand men each for the reconquest of Guise, which commenced on the 17th of Harren’s Folly, 1730. The combined force, led by General Otto Barbanov, pushed back the Lorrainian sentries and surrounded them at Guise, putting the castle under siege. For two weeks, little happened beyond a series of bombardments from the Imperial forces, but eventually the restless Lorrainian defenders made an offer: their foremost warrior, Sir Lewis of Lorraine, would duel one of the Imperial champions. If Sir Lewis won, the besiegers would allow them safe passage from Guise and merely exile them from the Empire. If the Imperial champion triumphed, then the garrison would surrender unconditionally. King Andrik of Haense, personally leading the Haeseni contingent, volunteered to be the Imperial champion, as he himself was a fighter of great repute, and many stories had been sung of his skill with the blade. Sir Lewis and King Andrik then readied their arms and armor for the duel that was agreed to begin at dusk. The following account of the duel is chronicled by Sir Leonard de Ruyter, who was present at the Siege of Guise in person. "That evening, King Andrik and the curr of Lorraine met just outside of the walls of the castle. The rebel defenders, among them d’Amaury himself, stood atop the walls, bows at the ready for any supposed treachery on our part. A humorous thing, to think us the likely traitors, but nothing can stir madmen from the stupors that captivate their imagination. Torches formed a ring around the two, which we were not allowed to pass into, lest Guiscard take some dishonorable action. Suffice to say, I had my hand gripped upon the hilt of my sword the whole damn time. As soon as the two were ready, a priest came out and led us in prayer. After that, the duel began. The King of Haense wielded a warhammer with a small buckler attached to his arm, while Guiscard used a traditional longsword. As the two lunged forth, their blades met, ringing off each other as the two warriors moved as quick as hares. However, it was over in fewer than ten blows. The King of Haense quickly overwhelmed his opponent, knocking his sword aside and smashing his hammer through the bastard’s collar, causing his armor to splinter into his neck. Guiscard fell to the ground, writhing as he choked on his own blood, but a moment later he fell still." Despite the agreement that was in place, or perhaps even because of it, given the certain death that awaited them upon their surrender, the Lorrainian defenders continued to resist. However, demoralized from Sir Lewis’s defeat, heavily outnumbered, and running low on provisions, defeat was inevitable. On the 23rd of Sigismund’s End, 1730, the Emperor himself arrived at the siege in order to supervise it. Inspecting the state of Guise’s defenses, he ordered it to be stormed the next day. The following morning, the Imperial army, led personally by General Otto Barbanov, launched its assault upon Guise. After two hours of artillery fire, the Imperials scaled the walls, quickly overwhelming the defenders and surging into the keep. It is said that here the two old friends, Adrian de Sarkozy and Leufroy d’Amaury, fought a duel in the midst of the battle. With the walls of the keep crumbling apart, men being slaughtered, and others fleeing the carnage, the Dukes of Adria and Lorraine fought uninterrupted. The duel continued unabated for ten minutes, though finally the Duke of Adria mortally wounded d’Amaury, driving his sword through the man’s stomach. Both bloodied, and the latter on the verge of death, they embraced and wept over the friendship they once had. As he lay dying, the Duke of Lorraine uttered his final words to his brother: "Go to glory, Adrian. I present an obstacle to you no longer." With that, Leufroy d’Amaury died, and with him the last remaining life of his resistance. Those few Lorrainians who held out promptly surrendered upon hearing of their liege’s death. By the day’s end, nearly all of the rebel defenders lay dead or captive, while the Imperials had suffered six hundred casualties. The Barony of Guise had been reconquered, and soon the Kaedreni army moved into the barony, fully incorporating it into the kingdom. A small supplemental garrison from the Imperial army was also stationed, but the rest of the soldiers were allowed to disperse and return home. The Lorraine Revolt has been defeated. The Empire entered a period of peace following the fall of Leufroy d’Amary, and to many it seemed that Oren would enter a period of prosperity. The High Pontiff and Simon Basrid had managed to restore much of the Imperial administrative apparatus, and were now developing a centralized tax structure. The army reforms under the Duke of Adria had proven effective, and the garrisons across the Empire had been restored to full strength. Laertes de Falstaff and Sir Hans de Ruyter had brutally put down a number of plots against the Imperial throne by Pertinaxi sympathizers, finally using the Nauzican Brigade for its intended purpose. To cap off the bountiful year, Alexander II formally announced his betrothal to Lucille de Falstaff, the daughter of the late Conrad de Falstaff. Despite her relatively low station, the two had been in love for years, and despite the insistence of his council, the Emperor refused to set her aside for a more suitable match. The wedding was set to take place on the 5th of the Sun’s Smile, 1731, and the preparations for the event were one of the most expensive undertakings in the history of the Empire. As fall drifted into winter in late 1730, the Empire was abuzz with excitement for the coming wedding. However, not all were pleased with the repaired Empire. According to the chronicles of Dragoven Thodul, a minor court official, the Archchancellor, John d’Arkent, had grown envious of the successes of the Emperor’s council and desired the acclamation they had earned. He granted himself a sizable tract of land directly across from the capital, which he began to fill with mercenaries in the guise of simple farmers. He then sent out letters to the Prince of Rubern and the Rex of Krumgar, presenting forged documentation that implicated the Emperor in a plot to overrun their respective realms. He promised both that if they supported his own claim to the Empire, he would reward them with sizable territories within Oren. Finally, he began to arrange a plot with his mercenaries to assassinate the Emperor and seize control of Helena before any of the other Imperial vassals could react. The date of the coup was set for the 3rd of the Sun’s Smile, 1731, just two days before the Imperial wedding. There are a number of theories surrounding the death of Emperor Alexander II, though only three are seriously considered by any students of history. The first two involve poison, either by the Duke of Adria or John d’Arkent, whose motivations were centered around the acquisition of power. The third, and the official narrative, is that in the weeks prior to his wedding, the Emperor had contracted an illness during his review of the western territories of the Empire, which soon drove him into a coma. Unresponsive and on the verge of death, his council personally turned to the Duke of Adria and asked him to become Lord Protector of the Empire. Whatever the case, On the morning of the 3rd of the Sun’s Smile, 1731, it was announced to the court that Emperor Alexander II, whose absence that morning gave rise to concern, had died. Wasting no time for mourning, Adrian de Sarkozy immediately stepped forth and declared that he was now Lord Protector of the Empire and was to rule it in the coming interregnum. Whatever dissent that may have fomented was immediately quashed by the presence of the Imperial army, Nauzican Brigade, and Adrian levy, all now effectively under the Duke of Adria’s command. John d’Arkent, outside of the city with his retinue and the Black Army of Rubern, did not receive word of this until an hour later, upon which he and Prince Richard immediately rode to the Imperial palace with their combined army. Prince Richard and d’Arkent led their men into the palace and began to contest Adrian’s ascension to the position of Lord Protector. They accused him of poisoning the Emperor, and said that with plenty of eligible candidates for the Imperial throne, there was no reason for him to proclaim himself Lord Protector. As these arguments grew more fierce, the (many) armed men and women around them began preparing themselves for an inevitable clash. At this critical juncture, John d’Arkent, seeing the sizable opposition arrayed against him and Rubern, fled the palace, later to be found hiding in a barrel outside of a tavern. His mercenaries, confused at their liege’s flight, lowered their guard as they comprehended what to do. Taking advantage of this, Sir Hans de Ruyter and the Nauzican Brigade, acting on their own initiative, surged forth and slammed into the unaware mercenaries, scattering them immediately. The Black Army of Rubern, far more disciplined and battle-hardened, managed to make a fighting retreat from the palace until order had been restored by the Lord Protector. The Ruberni, though furious, refrained from escalating the conflict and returned home. The rule of Lord Protector Adrian de Sarkozy had been cemented, though it was not without loss. Reluctant to commit the whole of his forces in the capital, Sarkozy had relied solely on the Nauzican Brigade to beat back the forces of Prince Richard and John d’Arkent. Although they had triumphed, the Nauzica had been decimated during the battle- among the dead was the Imperial spymaster, Laertes de Falstaff- and fewer than fifty of their number remained at the end. From this point forward, the Nauzican Brigade was disbanded, never to be revived again. Immediately after the battle, Adrian de Sarkozy immediately confirmed the positions of the government members, saved John d’Arkent, who was dragged before the Lord Protector in chains. In tears, the man begged for his life, claiming that he was acting under duress from the Prince of Rubern. He offered his services as Imperial spymaster, which Sarkozy accepted at the insistence of Simon Basrid. With his central government secured, the Lord Protector and his council moved towards ensuring the loyalty of the remaining Imperial vassals, who, while not as incensed as the Prince of Rubern, were still wary of the Duke of Adria. Wishing to strengthen his political base inside the capitol, and assert that he was truly the head of the Empire, rather than its most powerful vassal, Sarkozy began a program of deportation of his subjects from Adria into Helena, leaving the former an abandoned ghost town, but completely transforming and revitalizing the latter. Unbeknownst to the Lord Protector and his government, as they were attempting to consolidate the power of the now-empty Crown, an orcish army was massing on their western borders. The Rex of Krugmar, Leydluk'Raguk, had accepted John d’Arkent’s call to arms, but had not received word of his failed coup in Helena. Thus, during the month of Owyn’s Flame, 1732, a large orcish force, numbering around four thousand strong, invaded the Empire from the west, marching into the Duchy of Vintas and putting it to siege. The Duke of Vintas, with few forces of his own, agreed to suck the toe of the orcish Rex in exchange for their departure (according to Dragoven Thodul, this is where the war received the name ‘The Toe War’), but despite this, the Krugmar warband remained and soon began looting the farms and villages around Vintas. Given John d’Arkent’s inclination towards drinking rather than his responsibilities as spymaster, the Imperial court did not receive word of the orcish invasion until they had put Vintas to siege. Scrambling to put together a relief force, the Lord Protector could only send around four thousand light cavalry, put under the command of General Otto Barbanov, to try and lift the siege. Racing to Vintas at a breakneck pace, the relief force finally arrived on the 16th of Tobias’s Bounty, 1732, and met the orcish invaders in battle. Exhausted, outmatched, and low on supplies, the Imperial army was quickly broken by the fearsome orcish berserkers. However, breaking Rex’s army in battle was not General Otto’s intention. Taking a few stalwart veterans with him, General Otto made his way towards the orcish siege weaponry and supply wagons, setting them ablaze. As the Imperial army retreated into the walls of Vintas, the Krugmar invaders returned to their camp to celebrate; all that was there to greet them were the burning husks of their tents, baggage train, and siege weapons. Now unable to conduct a siege, the Rex was forced to turn around, though he and his men retreated slowly, looting and pillaging every town, castle, and farmstead on their return to Krugmar. Just as the Lord Protector had rallied the Imperial standards and begun preparations to march on Krugmar, a setback occurred. King Adrian of Kaedrin had, for the past four years, since 1728, been waging an undeclared war against the Free City of Llyria—a domain in the west of Almaris that was home to a number of practitioners of dark magic, fantastic creatures, and associates of Iblees. Believing the city to be an affront to God, bands of Kaedreni knights would frequently venture to Llyria to slay its citizens and pillage their homes. This practice would continue until 1732, when the tribes of Fenn and Irrinor, of snow elven and wood elven stock respectively, also set about raiding and looting Llyria for similar reasons as the Kaedreni. At first, an uneasy alliance was formed, and in the Battle of Llyria on the 4th of Sigismund’s End, 1732, a combined Kaedreni, Fennic, and Irrinorian army, led by the Crown Prince of Fenn, the mad cripple Aldred Tundrak, utterly destroyed a hastily-assembled Llyrian army. With no opposition, they marched into the accursed city, setting it ablaze and, according to the court official Dragoven Thodul, salted the fields in its aftermath. However, squabbles soon emerged between the elves and the humans, with both believing that they had the right to claim the former Llyrian territories. A fight broke out, but it was quickly quelled by the senior officers. The two sides struck an agreement to leave the land unoccupied while they returned home. While many assumed this would be the end of any conflict between man and elf, the tribes of Fenn and Irrinor began to complain loudly to the Lord Protector, and upon the outbreak of the Toe War, the two threatened to intervene on the side of Krugmar if the Empire attempted to conquer orcish lands. Not wishing to open up another front in the war, Adrian de Sarkozy and the Sohaer of Haelun’or sent diplomats to Irrinor to try and resolve the situation. "The Lord Protector" By the Princess Imperial, Duchess Catherine Anastasia of Westmarch. Done in a Norlandic-Arichdorfian style as a gift to the Baroness of Arcishdorf, Laurentina von Arichsdorf. Despite this, the Lord Protector had no intention of halting his offensive into Krugmar, and on the 18th of the Sun’s Smile, 1733, the forces of the Empire, consisting of both the Imperial army and all of the vassals of the Empire, marched towards San’Strohk, the capital of Krugmar. Boasting an army around twenty thousand strong, and facing an orcish defense force of only five thousand, the Lord Protector met no resistance as he practiced a similar policy of looting and burning as the orcs had during their attack on Vintas. Fenn and Irrinor, while too far away to fully mobilize and join the defense of Krugmar in time, sent around a thousand warriors each, bolstering the orcish count to seven thousand. The Imperial force finally surrounded San’Strohk on the 29th of Sigismund’s End, 1733, settling in for a long siege. The orcs, having plenty of time to prepare their defenses, now stood before the Empire with a daunting challenge. Described by Sir Eric Crell, a knight in the Lord Protector’s retinue, as "cruel, ugly, brutish, yet utterly practical and effective," the formidable orcish defenses kept the Imperials at bay for many months. This crucial delay allowed the tribes of Fenn and Irrinor to slay the Orenian diplomats sent to meet with them and invade the Silver State of Haelun’or, a longstanding Orenian ally. Overrunning the high elven border defenses, the snow elves and wood elves began pouring into Haelun’or, occupying several small towns and towers. At this critical juncture, both King Pierce of Curonia and King Adrian of Kaedrin, hated rivals of the Lord Protector, as these authors established prior, refused to commit their own levies to the defense of Haelun’or. The two kings, believing that their participation in the invasion of Krugmar fulfilled their feudal obligations to the Lord Protector, withheld their substantial reserves from doing battle with the invading elves. The Prince of Rubern went even further, declaring independence from the Empire and claiming that the Lord Protector had no authority over him. Ironically, Adrian de Sarkozy’s strongest ally, King Andrik of Haense, was the one man truly without an army that was able to combat the Fennic-Irrinorian incursion. For being a loyal subject of the Empire, he had committed nearly his entire army to the invasion of Krugmar. Just as it seemed that the Silver State was going to be overrun, another ally of the high elves, King Godric of Norland, a formidable, brave, and unyielding man, intervened. King Godric, very much the son of his father, King Edvard Edvardsson, conducted a masterful campaign against the forces of Fenn and Irrinor, driving them out of Haelun’or at the head of an army half their size. The now Grand Prince of Fenn, Aldred Tundrak, was forced to hire Reiver and dwarven mercenaries in order to halt Godric’s advance, forcing him into a long stalemate. With a war on two fronts and a brewing insurrection within the Empire, the Lord Protector knew he had to act decisively. On the 15th of Horen’s Calling, 1734, the Imperial army assaulted the beleaguered defenders at San’Strohk. After a bout of intense fighting at the walls of the fortress, the orcish army finally broke and retreated to the main citadel. The Lord Protector called for his trebuchets to be brought forth, which pounded the citadel until later that evening. A second assault, led in person by the Lord Protector and the King of Haense, finally overwhelmed the defenders, and they quickly surrendered. It is reported that here, Leydluk'Raguk, Rex of the Horde, fell during the fighting, though the circumstances of his death are unknown. It was here that Adrian de Sarkozy faced a decision. He could either fully incorporate Krugmar into the Empire, which would pull away desperately-needed soldiers from the front against Fenn and Irrinor, or he could install an orcish Rex, nominally loyal to the Empire, but unlikely to provide substantial support. Not wishing to overstretch his forces and embark on a great administrative undertaking, the Lord Protector chose the latter, and Burbur’Lur, an orc who was known to be friendly to the Empire, was placed as Rex. With the orcs having submitted, the Lord Protector hastily reorganized his forces and marched to the Irrinor-Fennic front, finally arriving to assist the Norlandic and Haelun’orian forces around the month of Godfrey’s Triumph, 1734. However, with the Empire having been on campaign for the past two years, desertions wracked the Imperials. The Kaedreni and Curonian contingents were recalled to their respective realms, and many soldiers in the Imperial army quickly snuck away to return to their homes. The Lord Protector’s army, which had numbered twenty thousand men at the start of the campaign, had now dwindled down to five thousand after the desertions, deaths, and incapacitations of the past two years. Still, this force was large enough to aid Godric and the Sohaer in pushing into Irrinorian territory, but once again it devolved into a stalemate. With the lines stable, winter setting in, and a deteriorating political situation back home, the Lord Protector decided to return to Helena sometime in early 1735. Having only rarely seen his wife, children, and friends, Adrian de Sarkozy wrote ecstatically about finally being able to return to the capital to see his family. He made promises to his soldiers that, by the time he returned, they would push into Irrinor and Fenn and conquer them both. This promise would go unfulfilled, and this would be the last time Adrian de Sarkozy took the field with his army. Little is known about what transpired in the Imperial Court and the broader Empire from the winter of 1735 to the winter of 1736, but certain inferences can be made. By early 1737, preparations were being made for the Lord Protector to be crowned as Emperor, this time with little opposition. It seemed that through a combination of bribery, coercion, and regular diplomacy, Adrian de Sarkozy had mostly stabilized the political situation within the Empire, preventing civil war from erupting. Indeed, reinforcements from Curonia and Kaedrin are reported to have joined the offensive against Irrinor and Fenn, suggesting that many of the rifts between them and the central government had been mended. The Duchess of Adria, Maria Barbanov, provides historians with some of the few first-hand accounts, namely through her letters to her sister, Princess Sophia. These letters reveal both the marital troubles between Adrian and Maria, but also the latter’s undying loyalty to her husband and the Empire she now ruled. Her youthful ambition had not subsided, and when her husband revealed to her that they would soon rule as Emperor and Empress, she became jubilant. She took a leading role in preparing for the coronation, which was set to take place on the 1st of Sigismund’s End, 1737. She detailed a number of plans she wished to implement during her time as Empress, from public works projects to fashion reforms to modifications in legal proceedings. Tragically, much like her husband’s promises to his army, these dreams would go unfulfilled. Several theories surround the demise of the Lord Protector on the 12th of Harren’s Folly, 1737, and the circumstances of his death lend credence to this. A controversial, iron-fisted man until the end, the prospect of Adrian de Sarkozy becoming the full-fledged Emperor must certainly have been alarming to his many enemies both at court and abroad. Thus, many contemporary and later scholars believe that the Lord Protector’s end was the result of foul play. Another belief, which has cemented itself into legend among the dark elves, asserts that the Lord Protector was visiting Renelia, the home of the dark elves, on a diplomatic and scientific mission. Finding old dark elven texts in an archaic tongue, the Lord Protector is said to have uttered one of these words with perfect pronunciation, causing him to vanish in a beam of light. It is said that, years later, he returned to Arcas in the form of a dark elf, where he became a respected tribal warlord and led his followers in the conquest of an unknown island off of the continent, where he supposedly still resides to this day. These theories can safely be discredited, as it is well-documented that the death of the Lord Protector was the result of a lung disease, given his slow, long demise. Unlike the sudden death of Emperor Alexander II, Adrian de Sarkozy had plenty of time to choose a successor. Scouring the Empire for a suitable candidate, the Imperial Council of State finally settled on the thirty-three year old Peter Sigismundic Helane, the eldest son of the former Emperor Antonius. Born in 1704, Peter Sigismundic had been groomed for future succession as the heir of Antonius. The young prince was bright, forward-thinking, and charming. He was one of the more popular children in the court of the Pertinaxi Emperors. However, with the overthrow of his father in 1714 by his uncle Romulus, the Duke of Cascadia, the ten year old Peter was whisked away to Ves by loyalists of his father, fearing what could come of the true heir of Antonius. Raised side-by-side with the young Alexander Stephen, the future Emperor Alexander II, Peter Sigismundic was given a similarly liberal, well-rounded education by Daniel VI and Simon Basrid, who wished for him to one day be Archchancellor of the Empire in order to aid in implementing their reforms. For much of his youthful years, Peter Sigismundic was seen as little more than a minor, if competent, noble and official within Ves, later Kaedrin. In 1734, he married his cousin, Lorena Christiana Cascadia, daughter of his uncle Romulus, in a small ceremony attended solely by the local Kaedreni nobility. By 1737, he was hardly thought of as a candidate for the Imperial throne, as many either feared that he would govern in the likeness of his father or simply did not know about him, but the High Pontiff and Simon Basrid urged the Lord Protector to raise him to the throne. The former believed that, as Emperor, Peter Sigismundic would be able to help implement some liberal reforms and ensure the stability of the Empire. According to The Truth of the Devil from the Sands: The Life of the Wretched Villain Simon Basrid by Stepan de Rosieres, the latter wished to use Peter to install a democracy within Oren. By the 26th of the Sun’s Smile, 1737, the preparations had been made for the ascension of Peter Sigismundic to the Imperial throne. As his last act, the dying Lord Protector authored the Instrument of Coronation, which was to be released upon his death. He spent his final days with his friends, family, and finally his ministers, to whom he gave his advice on how to manage the realm’s issues upon his death. Finally, on the 12th of Harren’s Folly, 1737, the Lord Protector was given his last rites. It is said that he entered a state of delirium, as he began to speak to the air, believing it to be the long-deceased Leufroy d’Amaury. Apparently weeping, he apologized to his late friend, and soon he began to feverishly recount the battles that they had fought together for Joseph Marna. Throughout the evening, his voice grew quieter and less coherent, until he gave his last breath five minutes before midnight, passing away. A week of mourning was declared across the Empire for the deceased Lord Protector, but seven days later, on the 17th of Harren’s Folly, 1737, the coronation of Peter Sigismundic was held in the Basilica of Final Revelation to a great crowd. Raised to the throne as Peter III, Holy Orenian Emperor, this day marked the beginning of the Novellen Dynasty. Some were thankful, believing that the Lord Protector had been a ruthless, dictatorial man who was driving the Empire into ruin. Others were fearful, believing that Peter III’s lineage had doomed him to repeat the mistakes of his father. Most, though, watched with guarded caution. Despite the efforts of Alexander II and Adrian de Sarkozy, the seams of the Empire had continued to split. The Principality of Rubern still maintained its independence, and its defiance was soon followed by the Archduchy of Suffonia. The Horde of Krugmar, led by Rex Burbur’Lur, broke from the Empire, refusing to pay its required tribute and fulfill its military obligations. The war against Irrinor and Fenn continued, where quarreling had broken out between the Haeseni and Norlandic contingents within the allied army. After a particularly large-scale brawl, King Godric of Norland led his men home, and the Sohaer of Haelun’or began to draw back some of his own forces. Both opened lines of communication with the Prince of Rubern, asking what other states, both large and small, across Arcas could be convinced to join a coalition against the Empire. However, not all was bleak, for as a looming disaster crept over the Empire, the church’s revitalization had reached its high point. The unification effort of the Canonist Church pushed by Daniel VI reached its zenith. With the help of many leading ecclesiastical scholars and theologians of the day, the first Codex of Ecclesiastical Law of the Holy Canonist Church (ie. Canon Law), was created. While this may seem like a footnote to the reader, it was the first stance taken by various bishops and priests on what is considered canonical and righteous to believe and follow. It has rules on marriage, obligations of priests and laity, liturgy, coronations, scripture, etc. The mere creation of this sparked such a unified response by the Canonist Church that these authors consider the True Faith to have shed its final roots within the Canonist Church and become its own. After this astonishing magnum opus that was done by Daniel VI, the Lord decided to bless him with an honor before he passed into the Seven Skies. This event, recorded in both Queen Johanna of Sutica’s Corvinus and in the acclaimed ecclesiastical historia of Bl. Jude II, foretold coming events. As the bells rang across Helena proclaiming the re-founding of the Canonist Church, the cathedral’s doors gave way to a procession of aengulic beings. Awed by the mere sight of it and kneeling in his own humility towards those who came with them, Daniel VI was given the gift of prophecy as Corwin von Alstreim came into the Cathedral. "Holiness is with you, Corwin the Pious!" The High Pontiff spoke boldly and loudly. Corwin von Alstreim rose the High Pontiff from his kneeling and kneeled to the High Pontiff, remarking, "O Gracious Vicar of God, only the Lord himself may not kneel in your presence!" As the two marveled as piety and virtue filled the halls of the cathedral as aenguls sang psalms, the Lord spoke through Daniel VI so that Corwin may hear the true words of the Lord: "Let no one deny your glory and power, for this life you have been raised into is not one deserving that which benefits the ant." King of Kings, Prophet of Prophets, that is what is foretold. You shall bring completion of the Holy Scrolls and lead all in an everlasting house of von Alstreim. Your place beside me in the Sixth Sky as your successors will rule for thousands of years until the Prophet Owyn returns and saves humanity from the hands of the Deceiver." Corwin’s response was one of humility and honor, "Lord of my Lords, to be a Prophet is to be akin to virtuous Horen, pious Owyn, and just Godfrey. How can a sinner like me take a place? I deny such authority for I should never hope to bear it. I awoke and knew my destiny, let me not stray from it for my own vain glory." Daniel VI’s voice boomed, "From your humility, your life will be one of friction and pain. But only this life. As I gave to Horen, you shall see me in the Seventh Sky should you live virtuously, piously, and justly. Rise, Corwin. Go to the City-State of Sutica and proclaim God’s wrath on them should they not repent." Without another word, Corwin kissed the floor in front of Daniel VI then left for the lands of Sutica. Daniel VI, having lived all his life in the service of God, had completed his final task. He went to the Pontifical throne and reposed. As his body sat in the chair, the aenguls sang of his piety, and Archaengul Michael took Daniel VI’s soul into the Fifth Sky. Both Alexander II and Adrian de Sarkozy faced the task of repairing an Empire that had been thoroughly fractured by war, intrigue, rivalry, and economic collapse. A daunting task for even the most capable of men, it is no surprise that the two ended their respective tenures with mixed results. Emperor Alexander, while competent and able whenever handling affairs of the realm directly, was beset by a number of issues throughout his reign. In difficult times such as these, a unified government is critical, but with a court divided by factional lines, individual vassals acting for their own benefit, and a number of incompetent ministers, Emperor Alexander received little substantial help. Additionally, with his youth came inexperience and uncertainty, and the young Emperor would often defer to the opinions of his ministers when faced with a problem. Adrian de Sarkozy faced similar problems, but they stemmed from different circumstances. As one of the vassal lords under Alexander II, Sarkozy was himself embroiled in many of the petty conflicts and feuds that defined much of the Time of Troubles. In his bid for power, he proved himself a competent commander and a cunning politician, but this came at the cost of making a number of enemies, notably King Adrian of Kaedrin, King Pierce of Curonia, and Prince Richard of Rubern. In the face of the Toe War and the subsequent defiance from his vassals, it required an iron will to hold the Empire together, which he successfully did, but he lacked the necessary diplomatic prowess to resolve many of the internal and external tensions the Empire suffered from. While the Time of Troubles is characterized as something of a dark age, marked by the greatest breakdown in Imperial authority since the collapse of the Sixth Empire and nearly causing the Empire to collapse entirely, it must be noted that undue blame is put on Alexander II and Lord Protector Adrian. Both are demonized by historians, with the former depicted as an absent-minded child utterly unready for rule, and the latter as an ambitious schemer who cared more about accruing power than managing the realm. However, a closer examination into the motivations and actions of these two men show individuals who, despite their flaws, made a valiant effort to overhaul the systems of government and prevent total collapse, which they accomplished. Although the reign of Peter III would prove decisive in the consolidation of the Empire, one must consider if that would have been a possibility were it not for the efforts of his two immediate predecessors. Vale, Alexander II ‘the Leuvian’ 23rd of Godfrey’s Triumph, 1711-3rd of the Sun’s Smile, 1731) (r. 9th of Tobias’s Bounty, 1725-3rd of the Sun’s Smile, 1731) Vale, Lord Protector Adrian de Sarkozy 10th of Godfrey’s Triumph, 1693-12th of Harren’s Folly, 1737 (r. 3rd of the Sun’s Smile, 1731-12th of Harren’s Folly, 1737) O Ágioi Kristoff, Jude kai Pius. Dóste mas gnósi ópos sas ékane o Theós. Poté min afísoume na doúme to skotádi, allá as doúme móno to fos tis sofías kai tis alítheias. O Theós na se evlogeí. The Rubern War and the reign of Emperor Peter III shall be covered in our next volume of The Decline and Fall of the Holy Orenian Empire.
  8. Helen Basrid went through the endless paper work that there was for the Inquisition. But then she can across one particular inquiry. An inquiry regarding (or perhaps from) the Barony of Acre. She, particularly, noticed one inquiry regarding the Barony of Acre that had both the Lord Inquisitor's and her eye on and would monitor as events unfolded...
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